Naomi Jeffries told neighbors that her 26-year-old husband Randy was away at a job training school when he left her and their three children in the spring for four months. Instead, he was at St. Elizabeths Hospital trying to kick his drug habit, Naomi Jeffries said in a telephone interview yesterday, less than 18 hours after she had learned of her husband's arrest at a downtown Washington hotel Friday night on espionage charges.
"I don't know anything about it and really don't have anything to say. I'm not involved in it," Naomi Jeffries, 26, said of government allegations that her husband tried to sell sensitive documents to the Soviets.
"It . . . it was such a surprise to me," she added, her soft voice quivering with emotion. "I just hope things get cleared up."
Neighbors of the Jeffries in a stately old brick apartment house at 143 Rhode Island Ave. NW echoed her surprise. Yesterday, shades were tightly drawn in the windows of all eight apartments, including No. 5, the second floor walk-up where the Jeffries, their two little girls and their infant son had lived for more than a year and a half.
"He was gone for a long time. She said he was at a training program, on-the-job training. He was quiet but he was friendly, very friendly. His wife, she's a real sweet person -- I don't think she knew," said a 29-year-old neighbor, who asked that her name not be used.
"I just can't see it -- it seems like television, it doesn't seem real. I can't believe it. How do you get to do something like that?" the neighbor said. "It would be better if he'd got caught with drugs."
Randy Jeffries was convicted of possession of heroin on March 25, 1983, and was given a year's suspended sentence and 18 months' probation, according to a pretrial services report. He has acknowledged using heroin and cocaine, according to the report.
The report said that Jeffries had lived in the District for 6 1/2 years. The FBI said he worked for the agency as a clerk from 1978 to 1980.
Since his release in July from St. Elizabeths, the federal mental institution in Southeast Washington, Jeffries, a short, wavy-haired man of medium build, has shifted between jobs and public assistance, according to the pretrial report. He worked for three months in the copying department of the Washington office of O'Melveny & Myers, a Los Angeles law firm.
After leaving that firm, Jeffries went on public assistance for a month before starting a job last month as a delivery man with Acme Reporting Co., a nationwide court reporting firm that has access to classified documents.
A Jehovah's Witness, Jeffries' faith seemed to ebb and flow with his drug use, but his wife moved closer to the church as her husband drifted, said Thomas Fralin, an elder of the family's congregation at 1836 Fourth St. NW.
"This is absolutely a laughing matter for him to be accused of selling secrets to the Soviets," Fralin said yesterday.
"How could somebody who'd been on drugs and in St. E's, get out, get a job with top secrets and do it all in four months?" Fralin asked. "It doesn't make sense, not unless he's more brilliant than I thought. Not unless a guy gets high and convinces someone he's got top secrets to sell for money."
Naomi Jeffries said she and her children are staying with friends while the shock of the arrest settles in. She said she did not want to discuss whether her husband had turned again to drugs since his release from the hospital. She said her only focus now was taking care of the children.
"She's a very caring person," Fralin said yesterday.