Sweetie Pie's Murder-for-Hire Suspect Blames Arrest on Corrupt Cops

Tim Norman lays out a potential defense in a peculiar letter from jail obtained by the RFT

James Timothy Norman's trial is set to start next week.
MADISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CENTER
James Timothy Norman's trial is set to start next week.

Former reality TV personality Tim Norman, 43, is set to appear in federal court in St. Louis on Wednesday for the start of his trial as the alleged mastermind behind a murder-for-hire plot.

Norman is the son of Robbie Montgomery, better known as Miss Robbie. She was a backup singer for Ike and Tina Turner as well as many other rock & roll legends. She parlayed her music career into a successful restaurant, which became the basis for the hit show Welcome to Sweetie Pie's, which earned two NAACP Image awards during its nine-season run on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The show's supporting cast included Norman as well as Robbie’s grandson Andre Montgomery Jr., who was 21 when he was killed in 2016. Montgomery Jr. was Norman’s nephew.

Federal authorities say Norman masterminded a murder-for-hire conspiracy that killed Andre.

On March 14, 2016, the aspiring rapper was shot and killed outside a recording studio on Natural Bridge Road where he had been working on his music.
Federal authorities say that Norman paid the gunman, Travell Anthony Hill, 30, and also paid Terica Ellis, 33, a Memphis-based exotic dancer, to lure Andre to his fate.

With the help of insurance broker Waiel Yaghnam, 44, Norman took out $450,000 worth of life insurance policies on his nephew. Yaghnam was an erstwhile hip-hop producer who years ago made chart-topping beats for Nelly but had since become a crooked insurance broker.

Yaghnam, Ellis and Hill have all pleaded guilty to their parts in the alleged conspiracy.

A Cryptic Letter from Jail

Charged with conspiracy to commit murder, Norman has apparently woven a conspiracy of his own.

Last summer, a journalist researching a potential podcast about Andre's murder wrote Norman a letter while Norman was in St. Genevieve County Jail awaiting trial. The journalist got a five-page letter in return, laying out a theory of the case in which Norman (who refers to himself as a “T.V. dude”) is being targeted by the government because of his participation Black Lives Matter protests following the police killing of Michael Brown. The journalist shared the letter with the RFT.

"There were cops on Kim Gardner's bad cop list after this T.V. dude for years," the letter states.

The letter goes on, "The Fraternal order has been messing with T.V. dude ever since the Mike Brown stuff…T.V. dude was really out there protesting with a lot of employees. His mom warned him."

The letter did not provide any evidence supporting this theory of the case.

The letter also contained complaints about the day-to-day life in the prison where Norman was incarcerated at the time.

"These guys are always fighting over the T.V. and what's on it. Literally fighting. I'm too old to be getting into fist fights over watching Jerry Springer," the letter states.

New Filings Give Clues to State's Case

Motions filed in federal court yesterday give some clues as to what the prosecution's case against Norman is likely to comprise when the trial begins Wednesday.

Early Thursday morning, Norman's attorney Michael Leonard filed two motions seeking to limit the prosecution’s use of two witnesses.

One of the motions concerns the gunman, Travell Hill.

Norman's attorney claims federal prosecutors have withheld key information about Hill, specifically that Hill had "an extensive history of serious drug usage, including on the date of the murder that he committed."
The motion goes on to say that prosecutors planned for Hill to testify to specific conversations related to the murder, even though he was heavily intoxicated when those conversations occurred.

In the motion, Norman's lawyer also argues that Hill is a biased witness because he was arrested for drug crimes but "any prosecution for Hill's violation of Federal narcotics laws has just gone away." According to the motion, this calls into doubt the idea that Hill is not receiving any benefit in testifying against Norman.

Federal prosecutors responded to Norman’s lawyer’s filings, saying that Hill was arrested for drug possession in 2020, four years after the murder. They reject any meaningful connection between Hill's drug use and the murder-for-hire plot Norman is accused of masterminding.

In the second motion, the defense asks the judge to limit the testimony of Chris Carroll, a man identified in court documents as a one-time manager of Sweetie Pie's. Specifically, the defense argues Carroll should not be able to testify that Norman hung out with “shady characters” and “thugs.”

The motion goes on to ask that Carroll not be allowed to testify that he saw Norman with a gun or whether Norman had anything to do with a robbery that happened at a house belonging to Norman's mother, Robbie.

About a year before Andre’s murder, Robbie's north-county home was burglarized, with the perpetrator making off with $200,000 in jewelry and cash.

The break-in had become a point of contention between Norman and his nephew Andre.

There were no signs of forced entry, and Robbie told the police only two people knew the security codes: her son Norman and her grandson Andre.

Andre Montgomery Jr. spoke to police about the robbery on March 10, 2016, telling authorities that Norman had done it.

Less than a week later, Montgomery Jr. was dead.

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About The Author

Ryan Krull

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