Entries in Atheists of Florida (2)


Murder-for-Hire Teacher has History of Disciplinary Problems

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office(TAMPA BAY, Fla.) -- A Florida high school teacher accused of masterminding a murder for hire plot against a coworker  has a history of disciplinary problems.

In a letter dated November 2001 and obtained by ABC News affiliate WFTS-TV, James Pepe, 55, was chastised for an apparent outburst.

“Your unprofessional conduct… caused a disruption of a school function and created an uncomfortable and hostile situation…” said a letter from the Professional Standards Director at Tampa Bay Technical High School, where Pepe worked at the time.

“Several professionals described your demeanor in terms such as ‘hostile,’ ‘aggressive,’ ‘extremely volatile,’ and your anger as ‘alarming,’” the letter stated.

Despite the letter, the station noted that Pepe’s evaluations were nearly perfect.

Pepe, a social studies teacher at Bloomingdale High School in Hillsborough County who liked students to call him “Doctor Professor Pepe,” was arrested at school on Thursday.

In a Sept. 13 phone call, Pepe, allegedly told an undercover officer that he was willing to pay $2,000 for  ”an issue that he might need taken care of,” according to WFTS-TV.

He is accused of trying to put out a hit on Robert Meredith, a former co-worker. The two men had apparently worked together at Strawberry Crest High School.

Both schools are in the Hillsborough County public school district.

Authorities began investigating Pepe in August after the man he allegedly contacted to kill Meredith became concerned that he was serious and called authorities.

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

Police called the FBI which then, according to authorities, taped a series of phone calls between Pepe and an undercover agent.

In the recording made just two weeks ago, in which Pepe allegedly told the undercover officer he would be willing to pay him $2,000, Pepe balked at the officer’s request for an in-person meeting.

Meredith told WFTS-TV he knew of Pepe, but did not socialize with him and has no idea why he would be targeted.

“When you are at school you have limited time to talk to co-workers, period.  So, as far as going out and having a drink, never,” Meredith said.  “This came as a complete shock.”

Pepe reportedly told police he and Meredith were best friends and had a falling out.  He also claimed Meredith was spreading rumors that he was a child molester.

Meredith, who is still a teacher, said he never had any harsh words or a confrontation with Pepe.

“I don’t feel that I’m in any way culpable for this,” he said.  “If there is a problem, it is 100 percent on the other side.”

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

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Atheists Wash Florida Road Christians Anointed With Oil

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(POLK COUNTY, Fla.) -- County Road 98 in Polk County, Fla., was scrubbed on Saturday by a group of atheists who are protesting the “Polk Under Prayer” campaign, supporters of which poured olive oil on the road last year in an anointment ceremony.

“Mainly we want this to be a safe haven for folks who want to raise their families,” explained Polk Under Prayer organizer, Dr. Richard Geringswald, according to ABC News affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa. “Asking God’s protection from ne’er do wells and evil doers.”

Ellen Beth Wachs, the president of Humanists of Florida Association and Atheists of Florida, said that she feels unwelcome as an atheist in the county.

“This anointment ritual was to call out the angels to check each car that entered the county, to make sure they were Christian, and if they weren’t Christian, they would either follow Christian beliefs or get put in jail,” Wachs told ABC News.

Wachs said the eight members of the Humanists of Florida Association who brought buckets of water to the roadway on Saturday did so in jest.

“They understand that a year later, there’s no oil left on the roadway. It’s just a symbolic gesture to show that we can poke a little bit of fun at the Polk Under Prayer gesture. We’re not going to tolerate their bigotry,” Wachs said.

Last week, Polk Under Prayer campaign members buried bricks that were engraved with Psalm 37:9-11 beside the 12 major roadways leading into the county, praying for criminals to become Christian or be incarcerated, according to WFTV.

Scott Wilder, a spokesman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said this claim was so ridiculous he’d rather not comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio