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Witnesses take the stand on day 1 of Sweetie Pie's murder-for-hire trial

The first witness was Montgomery's mother, Michell Griggs.

ST. LOUIS — On the first day of the murder-for-trial for a reality TV star, jury selection was made and they dived into the first two witnesses.

Tim Norman, who was featured on the show "Welcome to Sweetie Pie's" on the Oprah Winfrey Network, is accused of plotting to kill his nephew, Andre Montgomery Jr.

The prosecution started with its opening statements saying Norman was able to execute the murder with his accomplices through a five-step plan. 

On the defense side, they said Norman took his nephew under his wing and tried to get him out of a drug and gang life. They said Norman told Montgomery to come to St. Louis to help him out. 

The first witness was Montgomery's mother, Michell Griggs.

We learned Montgomery came to St. Louis during high school working as a bus boy at his grandmother's restaurant and before moving back to Texas after that. 

Griggs said she and her son were living in Texas when Norman called her and said to bring Montgomery back to St. Louis, so he can teach him how to be a man.

She said Norman asked her to send Montgomery's diploma, birth certificate and social security and said he would look after him.

Griggs said after the murder, Norman never approached her about her son's loss until the day of his funeral. 

She told the jury Norman told her "I'm sorry for your loss," at the funeral.

The next witness was FBI special agent Chris Faber, who went through a multitude of text messages Norman sent.

One text had an exchange with his insurance agent Waiel Rebhi Yaghnam, who's already pleaded guilty.

RELATED: 2 plead guilty in Sweetie Pie's murder-for-hire scheme

The exchange showed he asked for five insurance applications. 

Another text nearly six months before the murder showed Norman sent his agent a message saying, 'Montgomery may not make it six months.'

On Tuesday, 5 On Your Side also to spoke to forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz, M.D., Ph.D.

He's covered high-profile cases such as the Jeffrey Dahmer and the Menendez brother trials.

He said murders-for-hire are very rare since they barely go through.

"They don't have the nerve to do the crime themselves, or they don't think they could carry it out because they want to make sure they have an alibi at the time of the murder because they would be such obvious suspects typically because they would stand to benefit from the death of the target victim," Dietz adds. 

The Background

According to charging documents, Norman took out a life insurance policy on his 21-year-old nephew, Montgomery, for $450,000 in 2014, with Norman as the sole beneficiary.     

Two years later, on March 14, 2016, when Montgomery was shot and killed. 

According to police, it was during that time that Norman was seeing a dancer from Memphis, Terica Ellis.

One day before the deadly shooting, charging documents show, Ellis and Norman came to St. Louis from out of town.

Investigators said Norman and Ellis bought burner phones to stay in touch on the day of the murder.

On that same day, Ellis and Norman met with Travel Hill, near the Clinton-Peabody Housing Complex south of downtown St. Louis for a "discussion."

Ellis allegedly gave Montgomery's location to the accused gunman, Hill, on the night of Montgomery's murder. She told Hill she would lure Montgomery outside of the house.

That night, at about 8 p.m., Montgomery left the house he was in to take a phone call.

Montgomery was then shot and killed outside the home, along Natural Bridge in the Greater Ville neighborhood.

Evidence puts Ellis at the scene of the murder on Natural Bridge Road that night.

Just a few days later, evidence also shows, that Ellis deposited nearly $10,000 in cash into multiple bank accounts. According to charging documents, prior to the murder, she had a negative balance.

Norman tried and failed several times to collect his nephew's life insurance policy, weeks after the homicide.

Ellis headed back to Memphis just minutes after the shooting and Norman flew back to California just one day later on March 15, 2016.

What's Happened Since     

In June of 2022, Hill pleaded guilty to shooting and killing Montgomery, for several thousands of dollars.

Hill was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and another count of murder-for-hire.

According to the plea agreement, both of these counts carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Hill is scheduled to be sentenced at 2 p.m. on September 20.

The fourth person charged in Montgomery's death is Waiel Rebhi Yaghnam, he was Norman's insurance agent.

Yaghnam is charged with mail and wire fraud, and several counts of aggravated identity theft.

Both Ellis and Yaghnam pleaded guilty on July 22. Ellis is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 2. Yaghnam is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 26 at 2 p.m.

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