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Police: Florida history teacher tried to hire hit man to kill another teacher

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Bloomingdale High School history teacher James Pepe, 55, was arrested Thursday for allegedly trying to hire a hit man to murder a former colleague.

A high school history teacher in Florida has been arrested for attempting to hire a hit man to kill a former colleague, police said.

Plant City, Fla., police arrested James Peppe, 55, of Tampa outside of Bloomingdale High School in Valrico, Fla., as classes were being let out Thursday after he allegedly tried arrange to have his one-time friend and colleague murdered.

Police say the relationship between Pepe and Robert Meredith, an economics teacher, deteriorated as they worked together at Strawberry Crest High School. Pepe reportedly suspected Meredith was spreading rumors about him, and Pepe eventually transferred to a different school. Meredith stayed at Strawberry Crest.

But their feud continued, and police began investigating the case in August after they received a call from a man who told them he was concerned over several recent phone calls with Pepe during which Pepe allegedly tried to hire him to kill Meredith. The caller said he had been a friend of Pepe’s for more than 40 years.  

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Plant City Police detectives started working with the FBI to track down Pepe, and during a telephone call on Sept. 13, Pepe told an undercover officer that he “had an issue he might need taken care of,” and he was willing to pay $2,000, police said. That telephone call was followed by a second phone conversation during which the undercover officer attempted to arrange a meeting with Pepe.

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Pepe declined to meet in person but said he still wanted the Meredith murdered, police said.

Pepe faces a charge of solicitation of first-degree murder. He is being held without bond at the Hillsborough County Jail. 

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