Every other week, they were choosing which bills to pay. The power went off. Water, too. Jennifer Doyle turned to churches to find diapers for her infant.
The 26-year-old wife of a St. Petersburg mailman charged with mail theft says her family was in dire straits when her husband, John M. Doyle Jr., turned to desperate measures.
"That's not in his nature to do that," she said Wednesday. "It was all the stress."
Doyle, 38, admitted in a federal plea agreement filed this week that he took "countless" pieces of mail during his 15 months as a city carrier associate, selecting mail that appeared to contain gift cards, money or other valuables.
In January 2013, after 14 years in the Marine Corps, military cutbacks had left him out of a job.
The Postal Service paid $15.30 an hour. It was better money than some make, but he was supposed to be paying nearly $2,000 a month in California child support, Jennifer Doyle said.
"We weren't paying the full $2,000 because we couldn't afford it," she said. "They seized his bank account, so we couldn't get any money out.
"It scared him. The thought of being on the street with your infant daughter and your wife would scare anybody."
Doyle last worked out of the Midtown Station post office until his resignation in August 2014, the month investigators confronted him. They reported finding 2,129 pieces of first-class mail in his home and vehicle.
He is expected to plead guilty to a single count of mail theft at a court hearing not yet scheduled.
Jennifer Doyle said she didn't know what was going on until detectives came knocking.
She met her husband in New Jersey six years ago. She was a college student studying nursing but had a friend interested in joining the Marines. She visited the recruiting station, and Doyle was working there.
After his last tour in Afghanistan, they settled in St. Petersburg because it was his home.
"He misses the military," she said. "He misses what he did. He was in a leadership position. It's all he knew for 14 years. Everyone says it's easy to get jobs when you come back. It isn't, unless you have a college background."
He's in a vocational program learning a trade, she said. The GI Bill is helping with expenses.
She says her husband knows what he did was wrong and he expects to suffer the consequences.
Mail theft could be punishable by a probationary sentence, home detention, up to five years in prison or a combination. A judge likely would consider the number of victims, and whether Doyle violated a position of trust.
Prosecutors haven't said how much he may have stolen.
His wife said she thinks it was less than $1,000.
"He wasn't lying when he said he was trying to make ends meet," she said.
Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Patty Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3382.