Florida Teacher Accused of Hiring Hit Man To Kill Another Teacher

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Sep. 28 2012, Updated 12:00 p.m. ET

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By Debbie Emery - Radar Reporter

In a startling chain of events that takes the phrase "bad teacher" to deadly extremes, a Florida high school teacher has been arrested and charged with hiring a hit man to take out a former colleague.

James Pepe allegedly made a fateful call on September 13 to whom he thought was a professional killer informing him he was willing to pay $2,000 for "an issue that he might need taken care of," reported WTSP.com.

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However, the man on the other end of the line was an undercover police officer and the potential murderer was arrested on Thursday for attempting to get a contract out on the life of fellow teacher, Robert Meredith.

Pepe, a social studies teacher at Bloomingdale High School in Hillsborough County, Florida, had a personal grudge against the Strawberry Crest High School teacher, who worked in the same school district.

Detectives say they were alerted to the death plot by an out-of-state witness who had been approached to kill Meredith and was concerned that Pepe was going to go through with his deadly plan.

"It had moved beyond just a fixation to an actual anger," a spokesperson for the Plant City Police Department told ABC News.com.

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In the recording made just two weeks ago, the 28-year teaching veteran allegedly told the undercover officer that he was willing to pay the $2,000 kill fee, but was reluctant to have an in-person meeting.

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The potential victim was at a loss as to why the Tampa native would want him dead.

"This came as a complete shock," Meredith said incredulously, claiming that he knew who his wanna-be killer was but they had never socialized. "When you are at school you have limited time to talk to co-workers, period. So, as far as going out an having a drink, never.

"I don't feel that I'm in any way culpable for this. If there is a problem, it is 100 percent on the other side," he explained.

As for Pepe, he told police that he and Meredith were close friends and had a falling out, he also alleged that his adversary had been spreading rumors that he was a child molester.

He is being held at Hillsborough County jail on one charge of solicitation to commit murder and was not offered bail.

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