St. Louis – A federal grand jury indicted James Timothy Norman, 41, of Jackson, Mississippi, and Terica Ellis, 36, of Memphis, Tennessee, for the offenses of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire, resulting in death. The grand jury also charged Norman and Waiel Rebhi Yaghnam, 42, of St. Louis, Missouri, with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Federal complaints and arrests warrants were previously issued for Norman and Ellis, who were both arrested earlier this week.
According to the indictment and other court documents, Norman conspired with Terica Ellis and others to use a facility of interstate commerce, namely, a cellular telephone, to commit a murder-for-hire in exchange for United States currency, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1958. In 2014, Norman obtained a $450,000 life insurance policy on his 20-year-old nephew, Andre Montgomery, on which Norman was the sole beneficiary. In the days leading up to Montgomery’s murder, Ellis, an exotic dancer residing in Memphis, Tennessee, communicated with Montgomery and informed him that she was planning to be in St. Louis. On March 13, 2016, the day before Montgomery’s murder, Norman flew to St. Louis, Missouri from his home in Los Angeles, California. On March 14, 2016, Ellis and Norman communicated using temporary phones activated that day. Ellis also used the temporary phone to communicate with Montgomery and learn his physical location for the purpose of luring Montgomery outside. Immediately after learning Montgomery’s location, Ellis placed a call to Norman. On March 14, 2016, at approximately 8:02 p.m., Montgomery was killed by gunfire at 3964 Natural Bridge Avenue in the City of St. Louis. Ellis’s phone location information places her in the vicinity of the murder at time of the homicide. Immediately following Montgomery’s murder, Ellis placed a call to Norman, and then began travelling to Memphis, Tennessee. In the days after the murder, Ellis deposited over $9,000 in cash into various bank accounts. On March 18, 2016, Norman contacted the life insurance company in an attempt to collect on the life insurance policy he had obtained on his nephew.
The indictment alleges that prior to Montgomery’s murder, Norman conspired with Waiel Yaghnam, his insurance agent, to fraudulently obtain a life insurance policy on Montgomery. Beginning in October of 2014, Norman and Yaghnam submitted three separate life insurance applications, all containing numerous false statements regarding Montgomery’s income, net worth, medical history, employment and family background. In the life insurance policy that ultimately issued, Norman obtained a $200,000 policy, as well as $200,000 accidental death rider that would pay out in the event that Montgomery died of something other than natural causes, and a $50,000 10 year-term rider that would pay out if Montgomery died within 10 years of the policy’s issuance in 2014.
The arrests of Norman and Ellis are part of Operation LeGend which is a federal partnership with local law enforcement to address the increase in homicides and violent crime in St. Louis in 2020. The operation honors the memory of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, one of the youngest fatalities during a record-breaking year of homicides and shootings. Additional federal agents were assigned to the operation from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Section and Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating these current charges.
If convicted of the conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire or murder-for-hire, resulting in death, the penalty is life imprisonment or death and a fine of $250,000; and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
As is always the case, the charge in an indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.