High school teacher tried to order hit on former co-worker, Fla. police say

James Pepe
James Pepe

(CBS/WTSP) PLANT CITY, Fla. - Police have arrested a high school social studies teacher in Florida for allegedly trying to hire an assassin to kill another teacher he used to work with.

James Pepe, 55, was arrested by Plant City police on Thursday and charged with solicitation of first-degree murder, Bay 9 News reports.

CBS affiliate WTSP reports detectives say they were first contacted by someone out-of-state who told them that Pepe attempted to hire him to murder Robert Meredith, also a Florida social studies teacher.

According to the station, the individual told police he was worried that Pepe was serious about having Meredith killed. Police, with help from the FBI, wiretapped several telephone calls between Pepe and the witness.

Police say in one of the calls, Pepe asked an undercover officer if he would help him find someone willing to kill Meredith. In another call on September 13, Pepe allegedly told the officer "he had an issue he might need taken care of" and he was willing to pay $2,000.

When the officer attempted to arrange a meeting, Pepe reportedly refused but said he still wanted Meredith murdered.

Police said Pepe appeared to believe Meredith was spreading rumors about him and that the only way to stop him was to kill him, Bay 9 News reports.

"There was a friendship between the two teachers at some point. At some point that relationship went south," Plant City Police Ofc. Tray Towles said.