TAMPA, Florida - For the first time, the public is hearing the disturbing, profanity-laced rant from a desperate Bay area teacher who Plant City police say was looking to pay someone to murder another teacher.
On Saturday morning, 55-year-old James Pepe kept his head down in court as he listened to the phone calls he most likely thought were between him and his life-long buddy of 40 years. But those calls were actually being recorded by the FBI and Plant City police, after his buddy from Georgia turned on him and called law enforcement. He said Pepe wanted to pay him thousands of dollars to murder another teacher.
Pepe's friend said when he refused, Pepe considered using a former student, who he called a criminal. Plant City police claim Pepe says on the tape, "He will hook us up with every f***ing murderer we need. I'll get a couple of n**ggers to roll up on this guy."
Most of the 11-minute recording cannot be played publicly because Pepe, a Bloomingdale High School History teacher, repeatedly uses racial slurs and curse words.
Pepe's friend asks him, "What do you want done with Bob Meredith?"
Pepe, according to police, says in the call, "I want him killed."
Plant City police Pepe wanted a former co-worker who teaches at Strawberry Crest High dead for some time. Tray Towles with the Plant City Police Department said, "He, in his mind, attributed his problems to the victim in this case, and he felt the only way to solve that issue was to kill him."
During court on Saturday, the state attorney said Pepe was willing to pay his buddy $5,000 to do it, but when he refused, Pepe considered the former student for about half of that fee. The state attorney said, "He mentioned by name a particular student, former student, of the defendant's that would be, in the defendant's mind, able to carry out this act."
She added that the place where the killing was to possibly take place was on school property. "There was an indication that the defendant would even commit the act at a school - at a school event - a teacher meeting of some sort."
Plant City police say Pepe had a list of people he was considering. In the call, Pepe's friend says, "And you wanted to pay me to kill him...and then I was uncomfortable with that 'cause I got kids. Then you wanted me to find some n***gers. That didn't work. I found a white supremacist. That didn't work."
The teacher targeted in the alleged murder-for-hire plot said he was stunned, and had no idea why Pepe would want to hire a hitman to kill him. He did not attend court, but he did send someone in his place. That man didn't get a chance to say much to the judge on his behalf, though.
The judge ruled that Pepe must stay in jail without bond.