The pair of Florida high school social studies teachers were reportedly frenemies, but authorities now say the emphasis continued to shift to the second half of the word -- ending with one instructor seeking to hire a hit man to kill the other.
James Pepe, 55, was being held without bail Monday at the Hillsborough County jail on a charge of solicitation of first-degree murder. Pepe was arrested last week outside Bloomingdale High School where he taught history.
Pepe is charged with trying to hire a hit man for $2,000 to kill Robert Meredith, 49, an economics teacher of Plant City, Fla. The hit man turned out to be an undercover officer, part of a joint local-FBI sting operation created when a childhood friend of Pepe’s contacted authorities.
Pepe and Meredith had been friends, but their relationship deteriorated when they worked together at Strawberry Crest High School in Hillsborough County. Pepe eventually transferred to Bloomingdale near Tampa.
“This relationship got to a point where Pepe felt that any negative thing that happened to him at work, he thought Meredith was behind it,” Officer Tray Towles, a spokesman for the Plant City Police Department, told the Tampa Bay Times.
The final straw apparently came when Pepe believed that Meredith was spreading rumors about him.
As classes were about to end Thursday, police arrested Pepe, 55.