Strange and odd are ways students at Bloomingdale High School described teacher James Pepe.
Students say the history and economics teacher seemed a bit eccentric and sometimes rude, but never dangerous.
That is, until Thursday.
"He seems pretty chill so it's kind of scary," said Bloomingdale freshman Liberty Dixon.
The "it" in this case is murder for hire.
Plant City police arrested the 28-year veteran teacher Thursday after they say he tried to hire someone to kill former colleague Robert Meredith.
The two briefly worked together at Strawberry Crest High School for part of the last two years.
Meredith is currently a social studies teacher at the school.
Police say an out of town witness alerted them to the alleged plot.
Pepe was taken into custody at Bloomingdale – out of view of the students.
And those students aren't as shocked as you may think.
"It was kind of shocking at first, but then once I kind of processed it, it was kind of, you could kind of see it happening," said Bloomingdale senior Jason Gardner.
They pointed to what they called "odd" behavior in the classroom.
"He would stereotype. I'm pretty sure he played favorites in the class. There were some kids he always got on, and there were some kids he didn't really care about," said Bloomingdale senior Johnathan Hamilton.
A spokesperson for the Hillsborough County School district says Pepe has been informed he is not allowed to return to the classroom.
He will soon be suspended with pay pending the result of the investigation.
The arrest was all anyone could talk about after school at Bloomingdale.
And while at this point no one was physically hurt, it appears there is something else that was damaged by this plot.
"Now, I'm weird because I feel like I need to be more careful of like all the teachers. You know when teachers say, ‘Oh, you can trust me. Now I'm like, can I?" said Dixon.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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