HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CBS Tampa) — A history teacher at Bloomingdale High School has been charged with trying to hire an assassin to kill his former co-worker.
James Pepe, 55, was arrested by Plant City police on Thursday and charged with solicitation of first-degree murder, Bay News 9 reports.
Police were alerted to the attempted hit by a witness who grew concerned about Pepe’s reportedly serious intentions to have former fellow educator and Plant City resident Robert Meredith killed.
The FBI allegedly assisted local authorities in the investigation, which began with the witness sparking several discussions regarding a murder plot with Pepe.
The unidentified witness was reportedly asked by Pepe to find a person able to carry out the assassination. An undercover officer was subsequently put in touch with him on the matter.
“During those conversations with that officer, Mr. Pepe indicated that he had a job that needed to be done and he was willing to pay $2,000 for it,” Plant City Police Officer Tray Towles told Bay News 9.
Though the undercover officer tried to meet with Pepe in person, he refused, but confirmed that he did, in fact, want Meredith murdered.
The source of Pepe’s murderous rage was a series of alleged rumors thought to be started by Meredith.
“There was a friendship between the two teachers at some point. At some point that relationship went south. The two teachers ended up at different schools,” Towles explained to Bay News 9. “After that, the suspect in this case, he believed the victim was saying stuff about him to the extent he thought the only way to stop him from saying this stuff was to kill him.”
Pepe and Meredith met when they taught at Strawberry Crest High School together, according to school administrators.
“When we heard what the charge was, which I believe was solicitation to commit murder, that was quite a shock,” Hillsborough County Schools spokesperson Stephen Hegarty told the station.