Teacher accused of conspiring to kill another teacher for $2,000 appears in court

James Pepe remains in jail without bond

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - We're learning more about the Bloomingdale High School teacher investigators say conspired to kill another teacher for $2,000.
     
James Pepe was back in court Saturday. He didn't say a word, but a Plant City detective claimed he has Pepe on tape, mapping out the murder for hire plot, in chilling detail.

The officer says he learned about the plot, when a man, who claimed to be a good friend of Pepe called them, saying Pepe wanted to hire people to kill his former colleague, Bob Meredith. That's when, authorities began recording the phone conversations.

The friend, who ABC Action News is not naming, allowed investigators to record a conversation with he and Pepe that detectives played in court. In the police-monitored phone call, that friend asked Pepe about their past discussions. The friend says, "Originally, you know, you and I talked about it and you wanted to pay me to kill him and I was uncomfortable with that because I've got kids. then you wanted me to find some (expeitive). That didn't work."

It's the 11 minute phone call prosecutors say should be the basis of Pepe being in jail, on no bond, until his trial. You hear him brainstorming potential alleged hit men. According to the police recording, Pepe allegedly said, "He's the perfect candidate. So we've got to get somebody. The thing that you could do that will change everything overnight is to find Johnny Hopkins."

Prosecutors say he even used racial slurs and suggests white supremacists to do the job. The police recording indicates Pepe allegedly said, "He's very discrete. He's in the Klan. You know. He's probably on the FBI Watch List. Yeah. You know what? You're right about that and then I talked to that one (expletive) that you didn't like either because he was just a loud mouth (expletive)."

The detective says at one point, Pepe agrees to meet with a potential hit man, who is really an undercover officer.

Records reveal Pepe has had problems in the school district before. Back in 2001, he was suspended for a public outburst. Bob Meredith tells ABC Action News a few years ago, he and Pepe worked at Strawberry Crestview High School, in the Social Studies Department and he has no idea why Pepe would want him dead.

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