Former St. Louis TV Star Gives Marathon Testimony in His Own Trial

Tim Norman of Welcome to Sweetie Pie's will likely be the last witness in his conspiracy murder trial

James Timothy Norman took the stand in his conspiracy murder trial. - MADISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CENTER
MADISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CENTER
James Timothy Norman took the stand in his conspiracy murder trial.

Former reality TV star Tim Norman, 43, took center stage at his own murder-for-hire trial this morning.

Norman was the final witness called by his own defense on the morning of the sixth day of the trial.

"Did you have anything to do with the murder of Andre Montgomery?" his attorney Michael Leonard asked.

"No sir," Norman replied.

Norman, wearing a dark suit and white shirt with no tie, spoke with the smooth ease of a practiced raconteur for the first hour of his marathon testimony before breaking down into tears. After more than two and a half hours on the stand, the judge called for a break for lunch.

Norman is accused of orchestrating the murder of the Andre Montgomery, 21, Norman's nephew and co-star on Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, a reality TV show set in St. Louis that ran for nine seasons on the Oprah Winfrey network.

On March 14, 2016, Montgomery was gunned down outside a home recording studio on Natural Bridge Road. Four years later, police arrested Norman on charges of conspiracy to commit murder. Until that point, Norman had publicly played the part of grieving uncle.

Norman has not yet faced questioning from the prosecution, which will likely come this afternoon. Norman is expected to have difficulties explaining how he allegedly called the confessed gunman and texted with the confessed co-conspirator on the day of Montgomery’s death — yet was not the mastermind of the 21-year-old's murder.

On the day of Montgomery’s death, Norman testified that he did in fact fly into St. Louis from Los Angeles, but that he did so regularly to empty the safes from Sweetie Pie’s restaurants and deposit the money in the bank. He claimed his trip to town that weekend was no different.

He testified it also wasn’t unusual for him to rendezvous with women while in town, which was exactly what he did with Terica Ellis, an exotic dancer from Memphis who knew both Norman and Montgomery.

Last week, Ellis testified that Norman paid her $10,000 to lure Montgomery to his death.

But Norman insisted it wasn’t strange for him to send money to Ellis. He’d been paying Ellis for sex since 2009. Norman kept up the sex worker–client relationship when Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s began airing in 2011.

Norman said he preferred the discrete rendezvous because, “We had a family show, so I couldn’t be out in the strip club popping bottles and that sort of thing.”

As Norman became wealthier and more famous, Ellis began charging him more and also hitting him up for money when she needed it, Norman testified.

According to Norman, on March 14, 2016, he and Ellis had sex in Norman’s hotel room in the Chase Park Plaza, and as the two were making small talk afterward, Norman mentioned that he was searching for his nephew Andre Montgomery.

He said he then showed Ellis a picture of Montgomery, and Ellis recognized him.

“It’s a small world,” Norman testified.

Norman said he was looking for his nephew because in June 2015 Norman’s mother, Robbie Montgomery, had her home burglarized, and Norman suspected Andre was responsible. A hard drive containing scripts Norman had written and recordings Robbie had made were among the items stolen, Norman said, and he was eager to get them back. He said that on the day Andre was killed, he had enlisted Ellis' help in finding him, but the purpose wasn’t to kill Andre — just to get back the materials stolen.

In addition to Ellis testifying to her role in the alleged conspiracy, a St. Louis man named Travell Hill testified that he received $5,000 from Norman to shoot and kill Andre Montgomery after Ellis lured him out of a recording studio where the aspiring rapper was recording a music video.

Prosecutors allege Norman communicated with Ellis and Hill via burner phone.

Norman testified it wasn't suspicious that he would have a number of burner phones. He said that Sweetie Pie's cast members had microphones on them all day, and the show's crew instructed them to keep their phones on speaker so that the crew could pick up the calls' audio.

Norman said the burner phones were for "anything I didn't want to be on the TV show," primarily affairs he carried on with other women while engaged to be married.

"Any given day, I'd have four or five phones," he said.

During the day leading up to Andre Montgomery’s death, Norman found out that Montgomery was at a home recording studio on Natural Bridge Road across the street from Fairground Park. It was outside this address that Montgomery would be killed around 7 p.m.

Norman testified that he “linked up” Ellis with Hill, who frequented Sweetie Pie’s and worked odd jobs at the store.

Norman portrayed himself as a mentor to Hill, breaking into tears on the stand recounting their relationship.

“I just tried to show him you could make it doing regular stuff. You could make it without doing stupid shit,” he said. “They saw us get rich by selling chicken. Even though I moved out to Hollywood, I tried to stay in contact with everybody when I could.”

Norman said he'd enlisted Ellis' and Hill's help retrieving the stolen property from Montgomery, though it wasn’t clear from his testimony how Norman intended for Ellis and Hill to retrieve the goods taken from Robbie's house. However, Norman was adamant that he didn’t send his two acquaintances to the home recording studio to harm his nephew.

Norman flew home to Los Angeles on the night of March 14, he said. He was at the airport in Minneapolis during a layover when he got a call from his mother telling him that Montgomery had been shot and killed.

Tim Norman’s Relationship With Andre Montgomery

On the stand, Norman painted a picture of himself in stark contrast to a man who would plot to have his own nephew murdered to enrich himself.

Norman portrayed himself as an empathetic and caring uncle who took on the responsibility of mentoring Montgomery because Montgomery’s father (Norman’s brother) had passed away.

"I tried my best to step in and be a father figure, show him right and wrong, and be a friend at the same time," Norman said.

After Montgomery finished high school, he lived a few doors down from Norman in the same apartment near Forest Park. Norman said he paid Andre’s rent.

Norman testified he “pulled every string, kissed every butt I had to kiss” to get Montgomery into Nelly’s Ex’treme Institute, for aspiring music producers. Norman said he also loaned Montgomery his cars to go to and from school. He gave Montgomery an allowance of $100 a day.

In the spring of 2015, Montgomery stopped going to school and stopped working at Sweetie Pie’s. He also left the apartment a few doors down from Norman. “Building management” had forced him to leave, Norman said.

At this point, Norman said, he cut off Montgomery financially. Following the June 2015 burglary of Robbie’s home, Norman said that Montgomery “disappeared.” He was angry at his family for cutting him off and began posting photos on social media brandishing guns. Norman said he took steps to find his nephew.

“Was your purpose to harm him?”

“No.”

“Did you still love him?”

“Yes.”

Norman’s testimony was interrupted by dozens of objections from the prosecution when defense attorney Michael Leonard's questioning veered away from Norman and toward Montgomery, painting the young man in a poor light. Almost all of the prosecution’s objections were sustained by the judge, who over and over again deemed Leonard’s questions about Montgomery irrelevant.

Around 12:30 p.m., the judge called for a lunch break. Later this afternoon Norman will likely face a tough cross examination by prosecutors.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected] or follow on Twitter at @RyanWKrull.

About The Author

Ryan Krull

Ryan Krull is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times. Find him on Twitter @ryanwkrull
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