ST. LOUIS — It's day three of a high-profile murder trial involving James Timothy "Tim" Norman.
He's accused of being the mastermind in a murder-for-hire plot to kill his nephew Andre Montgomery Jr. in 2016.
Both were on the reality TV show "Welcome to Sweetie Pie's" on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Charging documents show Norman took out a life insurance policy on Montgomery for $450,000 two years before his death.
According to prosecutors, his life insurance agent Waiel Rebhi Yaghnam helped Norman submit five different applications for life insurance policies on Montgomery, all containing falsified information.
Day 3 of the trial
First to take the stand Thursday morning was David Sullivan from the life insurance company Foresters Financial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gwendolyn Carroll asked who was first to call the company about the claim after Montgomery was killed.
Sullivan said Yaghnam did. During that call, the life insurance employee told Yaghnam they needed to talk to the policy owner, Norman.
The calls to get the claim were on March 21, 2016. One week after Montgomery's murder.
Norman then called the agent for a death claim and even hired an attorney to call the life insurance company to get access to the claim.
Going back and forth, the agent said they denied the claim because they tried to collect more information.
Terica Ellis is a key witness to the case and second on the stand Thursday morning.
She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder for hire and she entered a cooperation agreement with the government.
She said she's been a stripper since she was 16.
Ellis says she was friends with benefits with Norman and he paid her for sex. She said she met him in 2011 at a strip club in East St. Louis.
She would dance there on the weekends and that's where she also met Montgomery.
One day before the deadly shooting, she said Norman was in town because his mom's house had been burglarized and he wanted to find his nephew because he believed he did it and Montgomery was dodging him.
She said Norman told her he wanted to get back what his nephew took.
After having sex, she said Norman asked, "Could you help me find my nephew? I will give you $10,000."
She said he never gave her that much money and would usually get paid $1,000 for sex.
Ellis further explained how they bought burner phones to stay in touch and then contacted Montgomery to track him.
Here is a text message presented as evidence from Ellis asking where Montgomery's whereabouts were.
She was using her Instagram name: Alexusdagreat.
After meeting up with Montgomery on the night of his death, she said she told him to come outside, he got in the car and when he got out, she got a text message saying "move."
That's when she heard gunshots.
Driving off, Ellis told the jury she called Norman.
"What the f*** happened? I heard gunshots," she said. "He said, 'Don't worry about it, get on the highway and go home, don't tell nobody.'"
She claims he told her to delete her Instagram and to get rid of the phone.
She later distributed the money in increments just a few days after the murder.
For the cross-examination, defense attorney Michael Leonard asked if she was trying to get a shorter sentence.
Leonard asked if she was good at lying since she's lied to different men throughout her career.
He further inquired, "Was Tim a sweetheart, kind man and a gentle person?"
She said yes.
"Is this unlike the Tim you know?" he asked.
She said yes. Ellis admitted she knew Montgomery was going to hurt.
Travell Hill pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and another count of murder-for-hire.
Hill admitted in court he killed Andre Montgomery Jr.
In 2015 and 2016, Hill shared he was selling drugs to support himself and considered Norman as a mentor.
He says, through Norman's friend named "White Boy Chris" he got the understanding that he should kill Montgomery.
He later purchased a gun but Hill says, Norman never personally asked him to kill his nephew.
The night of the shooting, Hill admits he was high on the drug Molly, hid in the house next door. He said he shot Montgomery twice, threw the gun on the roof, and went to a club.
"It was only my decision," Hill says.
Two days later, Hill met up with DJ Beatz, a friend of Norman's, and received $5,000.
Derryl Howard, known as DJ Beatz, went into a cooperation agreement with the government in 2020.
Howard says he's been friends with Norman since 2011.
Two days after the shooting, Howard gave his condolences to Norman and the response was, "forget him."
Norman asked Howard to retrieve $5,000 from his room and to deliver it to Hill.
Howard says, "I didn’t know what is was for – I went with my brother, something wasn’t right about it and I asked him to watch my back."