ST. LOUIS — Defendant James Timothy "Tim" Norman testified in his own murder-for-hire trial Tuesday morning.
Norman and his family became known for the reality TV show "Welcome to Sweetie Pie's" on the Oprah Winfrey Network for several seasons.
His mom, Miss Robbie, created the Sweetie Pie's franchise while Norman created the show.
She has been in the courtroom for her son's trial.
Norman is accused of being behind a murder-for-hire scheme to kill his nephew Andre Montgomery Jr. in 2016.
He is charged with conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire, resulting in death. He's also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.
Court documents show Norman took out a life insurance policy on Montgomery for $450,000 two years before the shooting.
Three others have been charged and have pleaded guilty to their roles.
Defense attorney Michael Leonard asked how much money Norman made from the show and working at the restaurant.
- He said he made $5,000 every two weeks
- He claims he also got income from the restaurant and then became an owner for one location making $50,000 on a weekly basis
- Norman also said he received money from merchandise with about $5,000 a week
- He also noted he received income from two ATMs, bringing in $1,500 weekly
The next question was direct.
"Did you have to do anything with the murder of Andre?" Leonard asked.
Norman's answer: "No, sir."
Norman said his brother, who is Montgomery's dad, died when Andre was a baby. He said he spent several summers with Montgomery when Montgomery was in high school.
"What was your role?" Leonard asked.
"He was my brother’s kid, so I want to step in and be a father figure. I tried my best to show him right from wrong and be a friend at the same time," Norman said.
Norman was emotional a few times, crying on the stand.
When it came to being a mentor to kids in the community, Norman choked up saying, “I just try to show them you can make it by doing it regular stuff. You can do hard work, not street life, not being a basketball or football player. They saw us getting rich by selling chicken."
Norman also said Montgomery was living with Miss Robbie during his high school years and Norman would try to include Montgomery in the show.
After graduating from high school, Montgomery went back to Texas before he was asked to come back to St. Louis.
"He had issues in Texas and I moved him into a new apartment and I wanted to help Andre," Norman said.
Norman said he paid for Montgomery's music school, paid for his apartment, gave him a weekly allowance and provided groceries and clothes.
We've learned Montgomery stopped going to school and stopped showing up to work in 2015.
During that time, Norman said, Montgomery got kicked out of the apartment and that's when Norman cut him off financially.
In June of 2015, Miss Robbie's home was burglarized.
Norman said a ton of items were stolen, including some of his own irreplaceable items.
That's when he said Montgomery disappeared. He said their family even hired a private investigator to find him.
"Did you want him killed or harmed?" Leonard asked.
"No," Norman answered.
The defense also shared pictures of Montgomery posing with guns and Norman said he was concerned about Montgomery's lifestyle.
Norman said it was suggested he should get a life insurance policy on Montgomery.
As for insurance agent Waiel Rebhi Yaghnam, Norman said he promised Yaghnam he would do an application as a favor.
He claims Norman, Montgomery and Yaghnam met and filled out the paperwork together on October 7, 2014.
In 2014, according to a plea agreement for Yaghnam, Norman took out a $450,000 life insurance policy on then-20-year-old Montgomery, which Norman attempted to cash in on after Montgomery's death.
Norman said he never thought Yahnam was trying to fool someone and said he was acting in good faith.
Leonard also inquired about Norman trying to get insurance coverage for his employees and asked if he was trying to kill them.
He said no.
Furthermore, Norman denied ever telling other defendants, Terica Ellis and Travell Hill, that he wanted Montgomery dead.
He said he did tell Ellis and Hill he wanted to find his nephew to find the items taken, but that was it.
In Ellis' testimony, she explained how they bought burner phones to stay in touch and then contacted Montgomery to track him.
On the stand, Norman said he would use burner phones for his infidelities since he had a significant other at the time.
Norman denied ever giving money to Hill and never knew Hill was the shooter until Hill plead guilty.
Both Ellis and Hill pleaded guilty to their roles in July of 2022.
On the stand, Norman said he didn’t understand the insurance lingo, but the prosecutors pointed out he filed his own life insurance application before.
"On the application, it asked if you previously were arrested and you wrote 'no' but that was a lie, wasn't it?" they asked.
Norman admitted it was.
Prosecutors also noted in September 2015, American Express put a judgment of $215,821 for Norman.
A judgment gives the creditor the right to use additional collection methods to collect the debt owed to them.
Norman did not deny this.
Beyond that, prosecutors asked if he ever paid $10,000 to Ellis to find Montgomery.
He said no.
The prosecutor further questioned him about Derryl Howard.
Howard, known as DJ Beatz, went into a cooperation agreement with the government in 2020.
On the stand, Howard said he was friends with Norman since 2011 and said Norman asked him to retrieve $5,000 from his room at the Chase Park Plaza and to deliver it to Hill.
This was after his nephew was shot.
At 8:03, phone records show Ellis called Norman.
Ellis recalled what was said during the phone call.
"What the f*** happened? I heard gunshots," she told the jury. "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.
Norman denied ever saying that and claimed he didn't know his nephew was killed at that moment.
That's when the prosecutor said, if he never knew about Montgomery's condition, why did he call Howard three minutes later at 8:06 p.m.?
Norman denied any involvement.
The prosecutor asked, "So Howard picked up the money by random?"
As of Tuesday afternoon, both sides rested their cases and closing arguments and instructions for the jury will take place Wednesday morning.