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Three arrested in murder plot

By SHEELA RAMAN
Published February 6, 2007


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PALM HARBOR - Thomas Herman discovered Sunday that two guns and nearly $3,000 could not persuade a would-be hit man to kill Samuel B. Grillo, authorities said.

Instead, Pinellas County sheriff's officials said, the man Herman thought he had hired told authorities of the plot, leading to the arrests of three people on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

The arrests resulted from a vicious dispute that authorities said had already spurred one murder attempt.

In September, Herman, 44, of Dunedin fired a 9mm pistol at Grillo while they stood in a Chili's parking lot in Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs police said. Herman missed, and Grillo punched him in the face, splitting his lip.

Herman was charged in that case with attempted murder and illegal possession of a firearm.

Soon after he was released on bail, sheriff's officials said, Herman tried to hire someone to kill Grillo.

Sheriff's officials did not say why they thought Herman wanted Grillo dead, but Tarpon Springs police had previously said the two men had argued over a mutual friend.

Sheriff's officials said Herman enlisted the aid of Grillo's ex-girlfriend, Carrie Jentz, 25, of Palm Harbor, in his second attempt on Grillo's life.

Jentz is thought to have given Herman the keys and the floor plans to Grillo's Tarpon Springs apartment, sheriff's officials said.

To find someone to carry out the murder, Herman went through Scott Rebello, 42, a construction worker from St. Petersburg, authorities said.

Herman initially gave the would-be hit man two guns and a $1,200 down payment, sheriff's officials said, but the man reported the incident to them. On Monday, authorities would not identify the man but said he was not a detective.

The man told sheriff's officials that Herman said he would give him $1,780 more when the job was complete.

At some point Saturday, when Herman thought the job was complete, he offered the man $1,700, coming up $80 short, said Sgt. Jim Bordner, a sheriff's spokesman.

Herman also used a false name with the man so that if the man were ever arrested, Herman would not be implicated.

Herman, Jentz and Rebello were arrested separately early Sunday. When Herman was picked up near Alderman Road and Alt. U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor, he was armed with a handgun, officials said.

Herman was charged with attempted first-degree murder, solicitation to commit murder, felony possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He was being held at the Pinellas County Jail on Monday without bail.

Rebello was charged with conspiracy to commit murder and violation of probation on two grand theft charges. He was being held without bail Monday.

Jentz was charged with conspiracy to commit murder and was released after posting $10,000 bail Sunday.

Neither she nor Grillo could be reached for comment Monday.

Sheela Raman can be reached at 727 445-4158 or sraman@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 5, 2007, 21:54:29]


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