A jury in Missouri on Friday found former reality star James “Tim” Norman of the show Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s guilty of arranging the murder of his nephew in 2016.
After 17 hours of deliberation, a jury in St Louis found Norman, 43, guilty of conspiracy to commit murder for hire, murder for hire, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, all associated with the fatal shooting of his nephew, Andre Montgomery Jr., in 2016, the Department of Justice announced.
Norman and Montgomery appeared on the reality show Welcome Back to Sweetie Pie's, which first aired in 2011. The show followed the family of Robbie Montgomery, Norman’s mother, and showcased their chain of soul food restaurants named Sweetie Pie’s, which was founded in the St. Louis area.
According to prosecutors, Norman conspired with others to kill Montgomery to cash in on a $450,000 life insurance policy.
One of the codefendants, Travell Anthony Hill, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder for hire and one count of murder for hire. Hill admitted he fatally shot Montgomery after receiving a call from a woman named Terica Ellis, another codefendant.
Ellis also pleaded guilty and admitted to providing Montgomery’s location to Norman and Hill. Ellis was reportedly paid $10,000 by Norman, and Hill was reportedly paid $5,000 for their roles in the murder.
During the trial, Norman, who took the stand, denied ever paying them or asking them to hurt Montgomery. Waiel “Wally” Rebhi Yaghnam, an insurance agent, also admitted to conspiring with Norman to fraudulently obtain a life insurance policy on his nephew before he was killed.
After the verdict, US District Attorney Sayler Fleming told reporters outside the courthouse that Norman’s crimes were motivated by greed, and that the plan was "relatively straightforward."
“He fraudulently obtained life insurance in the amount of $450,000 on his nephew, Andre Montgomery, without Mr. Montgomery’s knowledge," Fleming said. "He then used a paramour to locate Mr. Montgomery and a co-defendant to fatally shoot and kill him. Within days of his nephew's murder, Mr. Norman started the process of getting the insurance company to pay the claim."
Fleming added that Norman faces up to life in prison when he's sentenced.
Norman’s defense attorney, Mike Leonard, told BuzzFeed News that he and his team were “very surprised and of course disappointed” with the verdict, noting that they would be looking into filing an appeal after the sentencing phase is completed.
Leonard said his surprise stems from two factors, he told reporters after the verdict: “Number one, the government really had two star witnesses in this case, Ms. Ellis and Mr. Hill, who were shown in cross-examination to be extremely non-credible.” Additionally, the defense attorney said the fact that Norman himself “testified so extensively" and credibly was another reason he was surprised.
Norman is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 15.