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Man accused of murder-for-hire in Sweetie Pie's case pleads not guilty

Man accused of murder-for-hire in Sweetie Pie's case pleads not guilty

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ST. LOUIS — James Timothy Norman, a former star on the “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” reality TV show who’s accused of orchestrating the murder of his nephew, pleaded not guilty in the death in federal court Tuesday.

Norman, 41, is one of three defendants charged in the March 2016 plot to murder Andre Montgomery Jr., the grandson of Norman’s mother, Robbie Montgomery, owner of the Sweetie Pie’s restaurants in the St. Louis area.

The restaurant and family were featured on nine seasons of the reality show that aired on OWN.

Federal Chief Magistrate Judge Nannette Baker heard arguments in a detention hearing for Norman on Tuesday, but has not yet made a decision if Norman will be held in custody while awaiting trial.

Norman’s defense attorney John Rogers argued Norman is not a likely flight risk and should be released to stay with his mother, who lives in the St. Louis area.

Prosecutors said the nature of the crime, the volume of evidence in the case and Norman’s criminal record should require he be held until trial.

Norman’s co-defendant, Terica Taneisha Ellis, also pleaded not guilty in federal court last month and will be held in jail until trial. Prosecutors allege Norman paid Ellis about $10,000 to lure Andre Montgomery onto Natural Bridge Avenue in St. Louis where he was killed.

Norman and Ellis had been in an intimate relationship in the past and she knew Andre Montgomery through her past work as an exotic dancer at the Bottoms Up strip club in Metro East.

A St. Louis police detective testified in earlier hearings that Norman told Ellis he wanted to find Montgomery to confront him about $200,000 in cash that had been stolen from Robbie Montgomery’s home.

Andre Montgomery had been questioned by police in the burglary four days before he was shot, but told investigators he was not involved and thought Norman was behind the burglary, according to St. Louis County police documents.

Norman is also accused of taking out $450,000 in life insurance policies on his nephew in 2014, making himself the sole beneficiary, according to court documents. He tried to collect on the policies after the murder but was never paid.

Norman’s life insurance agent Waiel “Wally” Yaghnam, 42, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in the case. Yaghnam is accused of providing false information on the insurance policies, including information about Andre Montgomery’s income. Yaghnam worked in life insurance after a career in the music industry that included producing rapper Nelly’s hit 2002 album “Nellyville.”

Ellis and Norman were both indicted by a federal grand jury this summer on charges of conspiracy to commit murder for hire, or murder for hire resulting in death. Norman also faces an additional charge of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

If convicted, both Ellis and Norman could face a minimum sentence of life without parole. The charge also triggers a monthslong review by officials in Washington, D.C., as to whether prosecutors should seek the death penalty, although approval is rare.

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