Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In jail, 'John Doe' inmates often identified

In late June, St. Petersburg police officer Daniel Poveda arrested a man without a name.

Just after 8 p.m., according to an arrest affidavit, the man tried to use a fake license to collect a Western Union money order at the Publix store on 37th Avenue N.

When Poveda asked for his name, the man said it was Robert Senske. After he was read his Miranda rights, he changed his story. His name, he said, was Robert Darigo.

"During this time," Poveda wrote in the arrest affidavit, "I was unable to determine what the defendant's name really was."

The man was charged with resisting an officer and possession of a fictitious license. He was booked into the Pinellas County Jail as "John Doe."

John — and Jane — Does are fairly common in the jail, authorities say. But they can't stay in the system without a name, so a process meant to discover their real identities begins as soon as they arrive.

When they walk through the sally port at the Pinellas County Jail's booking center, an arrested person's first stop is a photographer. The photo is run through the jail's database. If the person has ever been booked into the jail under a different name, detention deputies will get an immediate match.

If that photo doesn't return a match, scanned fingerprints might. While inmates wait to see a nurse, their prints are taken. They're run through several databases belonging to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the National Crime Information Center and the Florida Crime Information Center.

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cristen Rensel said information can often be used to identify a person. If that doesn't work, they hope another set of photos will. Those are run through facial recognition software tied to a larger database. In some cases, Rensel said, it can match to ID or driver's license photos, meaning someone who hasn't been booked into the system in the past could still be "pinged," or tied to another name.

Though the system seems to separate offenders from their aliases fairly quickly, there are some situations in which a person can't be identified. In those cases, they often have to answer to a judge. There were 176 women, for instance, listed in the court's public records system as "Jane Doe" on Friday.

"What typically happens is the judge will say "until you provide verifiable information as to who you are, you're not going to be released," 6th Judicial Circuit Judge Thane Covert said.

A John Doe can't just be released under that name, no matter how small the crime, because they could be tied to outstanding warrants. Usually, Covert said, the promise of further time in jail is enough.

Covert handles felony cases, and while no John Doe cases stand out in his mind, he said misdemeanor courts could see more transients or other John Does who aren't accused of major crimes. Felonies could elicit a bigger push for recognition, Covert said.

"By the time they come before the judge the next morning, usually the jail has been able to identify them," Covert said.

In rare cases, an inquiry on the jail's booking page might yield a John Doe. That usually means the person has been released— one listed Friday had a $150 bond — before the system logged their real name.

The John Doe at Publix, it turns out, was named Robert Darigo after all.

Contact Claire Wiseman at or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman.

In jail, 'John Doe' inmates often identified 07/17/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 17, 2014 4:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Who's behind the mysterious butt graffiti all over St. Petersburg?

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first butts, perhaps, appeared in April on some steps behind the Sundial shopping plaza.

    A photo of the butt graffiti that has been cropping up around St. Petersburg in the past several months. [CHRISTOPHER SPATA | STAFF]
  2. During the most expensive mayoral election ever, St. Petersburg City Council wants to limit PAC money


    ST. PETERSBURG — In front of a large group of red-shirted campaign finance reform supporters, the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday started the ball rolling on an ordinance that would limit individual campaign contributions to $5,000 from political action committees.

    A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections
  3. Minority business accelerator launch by Tampa chamber to aid black, Hispanic businesses


    A "minority business accelerator" program was launched Thursday by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce geared toward helping black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to grow their companies. The accelerator, known as MBA, will provide participants with business tools to cultivate opportunities …

    Bemetra Simmons is a senior private banker at Wells Fargo, The Private Bank. She is also chair of the new minority business accelerator program for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. [Photo, LinkedIn]
  4. Peter Budaj loves 'vibe' with Lightning


    Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.

    Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.
  5. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.