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Clearwater man arrested in murder-for-hire plot

CLEARWATER — Jeff Meeks moved to his current neighborhood less than a year ago.

The 33-year-old, who works construction in Land O'Lakes, stuck mostly to himself. He occasionally waved or said hello to his new neighbors.

It wasn't until a sheriff's detective called him a couple months ago that Meeks realized not all was right in the neighborhood.

Authorities say Meeks' next-door neighbor was plotting to kill him. They say Robert J. Dimler, 55, hired a homeless man in the fall to carry out the crime.

Dimler was taken into custody about noon Friday at his home, 15181 Harding Ave. He was arrested on a charge of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. He was being held at the Pinellas County Jail on Friday night without bail.

"I was pretty shook up," Meeks said Friday night. "That's a big apple to bite. This is like some TV thing."

Authorities say Dimler hired 57-year-old Ernest Huff in August to kill Meeks, with whom he said he had a dispute.

Huff accepted $500 and 90 Vicodin pills as payment.

But there was a glitch.

In early November, Dimler and Huff had a falling out when Dimler backed into Huff's vehicle. When Huff asked Dimler to cover the damages, Dimler told him to subtract it from the $500.

Instead, Huff went to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Nov. 12 and told authorities of the murder plot.

Dimler admitted to the crime during an interview Friday with detectives, officials said.

Meeks said he's bewildered about the whole situation because he's never had an issue with Dimler.

"I never did anything to him," Meeks said. "He never told me he had a problem with me."

Huff told deputies he and Dimler met last year at a rest area off Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg.

Huff was selling wood carvings. Dimler bought some, and a few weeks later, Huff started doing some electrical work for him.

Dimler told Huff he was having issues with Meeks, and asked the homeless man if he would kill him, sheriff's officials said.

"He said he'd give him cash," said Cecilia Barreda, a sheriff's spokeswoman."

Huff said Dimler brought it up several times, and eventually gave him the money and pills.

Huff was supposed to shoot Meeks, according to an arrest affidavit.

But still unclear is when the murder was supposed to take place, or whether Huff was intent on doing it.

"Obviously the crime was not committed. At this point we don't have the information as to why it hadn't been carried out at the time he (Huff) came to us," Barreda said. "The money was exchanged. … Dimler expected it to be carried out."

All three men have criminal records, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Dimler's previous arrests include resisting arrest, domestic battery and disorderly conduct. Meeks' record includes charges of carrying a concealed weapon and drug possession. Huff has been arrested for marijuana possession and shoplifting.

The investigation into the case is ongoing, Barreda said.

Meeks said he trusts law enforcement to figure it all out.

"I don't even know him," Meeks said. "That's the eerie part of this whole thing."

Clearwater man arrested in murder-for-hire plot 03/05/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 6, 2010 2:46pm]
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