ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis man pleaded guilty Friday to murdering a former local reality TV show star for pay, while implicating others in the high-profile crime.
Travell Anthony Hill, 30, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and a separate count of murder-for-hire Friday in the March 2016 killing of 21-year-old Andre Montgomery Jr.
Montgomery was a former star on “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” an OWN reality show about a soul food business founded by his grandmother, Robbie Montgomery, in the St. Louis area.
Hill’s sentencing is scheduled for September, but both counts carry a mandatory life sentence in prison, U.S. District Judge John A. Ross said at the plea hearing Friday.
In Hill’s plea agreement Friday, he admitted to shooting and killing Montgomery in exchange for $5,000 two days after the death. According to an indictment, he was recorded discussing it with his brother on calls from jail.
Hill’s plea agreement also implicated two of the three other people also charged in the murder-for-hire plot that, according to prosecutors, involved life insurance policies, burner phones and payouts.
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Hill said in his plea agreement that the victim’s uncle, James “Tim” Norman, another star of the TV show, hired Hill because “he wanted Montgomery dead.”
Hill also stated in his plea that a woman, Terica Ellis, was also part of the plot and was hired by Norman to lure Montgomery outside and tell Hill where he was before the shooting in the 3900 block of Natural Bridge Drive. Police in earlier hearings testified that Ellis, an exotic dancer who was working in Memphis at the time, had a previous romantic relationship with Norman.
Norman and Ellis are facing conspiracy to commit murder charges with a trial set for September. Federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty in the case.
Norman is also accused in an indictment of attempting to cash in on $450,000 in life insurance policies he took out on his nephew with the help of an insurance agent, Waiel Rebhi Yaghnam, before the killing.
Norman and Yaghnam are also charged with wire and mail fraud. Yaghnam also faces counts for aggravated identity theft.
A break-in case
A burglary at the home of family matriarch Robbie Montgomery caused family turmoil in the months before the killing, police records obtained in 2020 by the Post-Dispatch showed.
Sweetie Pie’s owner Robbie Montgomery, the grandmother of shooting victim Andre and Norman’s mother, reported a burglary at her north St. Louis County home while she was on vacation in June 2015. At least $220,000 worth of cash, jewelry and other items were stolen, according to police records.
The police documents stated that officers initially investigated Andre Montgomery in the burglary, but after more than nine months out of town, he met with officers and took a polygraph test in March 2016. At that time, he denied being involved in the theft and told police he thought his uncle, Norman, was behind it.
Andre Montgomery explained that he left town to be with a girl and told officers his grandmother was trying to remove Norman from some Sweetie Pie’s business ventures, according to police accounts.
Four days later, Andre Montgomery was killed.
Investigators never closed the burglary case.
Andre Montgomery joined “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” which ran for five seasons on OWN, around 2011 after he came to live with his grandmother, Robbie. His father was killed in a 1995 stabbing, so Andre Montgomery grew up in Lubbock, Texas, with his mother and would spend summers in St. Louis with his grandmother. He moved into Robbie Montgomery’s basement full time around 2010.
Andre Montgomery was a paid cast member of “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” until 2013, appearing in a chicken costume in scenes promoting the family restaurant, pursuing a rap career and depicted graduating from McCluer North High School.
Federal prosecutors wrote in an indictment that Norman took out $450,000 in life insurance policies on his nephew a year before the burglary, making himself the sole beneficiary.
Ellis, the co-defendant accused of luring Andre Montgomery to the scene of the killing, used to work at the Bottoms Up club in the Metro East where she met Norman, St. Louis police Detective Donald Thurmond testified at a Tennessee court hearing earlier this month.
Police believed then that Norman promised to pay her $10,000, Thurmond testified.
Federal charging documents say in the days after the shooting Ellis deposited more than $9,000 in cash into several bank accounts.
Thurmond testified Ellis told police the burglary at Robbie Montgomery’s home had made Norman’s “boys” want to “get up on” his nephew.
Norman is also accused of trying to collect on his nephew’s life insurance policies but was never able to get the money, according to an indictment.
Yaghnam is accused of providing false information on the life 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.”
After the charges, TV clips from “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” circulated showing Norman mourning the death he is now accused of setting up.
Norman visited the scene of the killing with his mother and TV cameras in a 2016 episode.
“Since Andre’s passing I haven’t gone through this part of the city,” Norman said on the show. “Really, I’ve been avoiding it.”