— A pool party on Sunday ended abruptly for 11-year-old Katie Murphy when the FBI swung by and whisked her back to her Montclair, N.J., home. That same night in Yonkers, N.Y., Waldomar Mariscal, 38, returned to the house he shares with his parents to find officers combing through his family’s possessions.
For 10 people alleged to be Russian spies, there is little question they’ll be held in FBI custody. But for their children, the immediate future isn’t quite as clear.
While Mariscal is an adult and the oldest of all the suspects’ children, some of the other six kids may find their lives in turmoil without their parents.
They belong to four couples who were arrested: Richard and Cynthia Murphy of Montclair, N.J., parents of 11-year-old Katie and Lisa, who is believed to be 8; Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro of Yonkers, N.Y., parents of 38-year-old Mariscal and a 17-year-old son, who hasn’t been identified; Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley of Cambridge, Mass., who have two sons, ages 20 and 16; and Michael Zottoli and Pamela Mills of Arlington, Va., who have a toddler named Kenny.
Even the current whereabouts of the alleged spies’ kids are sketchy. After being plucked from her pool party Sunday, Katie Murphy and her sister Lisa were placed in the custody of a female FBI agent who
drove them off in a van with tinted windows, neighbors said. They were carrying sleeping bags.
"When I was talking to the FBI guy last night, I said, 'Where's Katie and Lisa?'” a neighbor of the Murphys, who did not want to identify herself,
told the New York Daily News. “I told him if they don't have a place to stay, send them down to us and we'll take care of them, and we would in a heartbeat.”
Zottoli and Mills, the Virginia couple, wanted their child placed with friends of the family, a spokesman for Arlington County told NJ.com. Their son is temporarily in the custody of a social service agency while the FBI conducts a background check on the friends.
17-year-old son: FBI 'knew my nickname'
Lazaro and Palaez’s younger son told El Diario, the Spanish-language newspaper where his mother was a columnist, that the
FBI agents who took his parents into custody had interrogated him about his family. “They knew my nickname,” he said. “They knew absolutely everything.”
Heathfield and Foley — who identified themselves as French-Canadians when they came to the U.S. in 1999 – spoke to their two sons in French when the couple appeared in court in Boston. The alleged spies are currently being held without bail. When Foley’s lawyer, Robert Sinsheimer, was
asked how his client was doing, he told the Boston Globe, “She seems like a frightened, concerned mom.”
A call to Foley’s lawyer from msnbc.com was not immediately returned. Very little information has been disclosed on the kids of the other suspects.
Mothers and fathers facing indictments retain their parental rights, said Terri Braxton, vice president of the Child Welfare League of America. For the time being, social services officials do not have the right to turn the children over to adoption agencies.
“This would be handled as anything would be handled in terms of parents being arrested,” Braxton said to msnbc.com. “Usually they are put in a temporary foster home and [officials] talk to the parents to see if there are any relatives they can go to.”
The other two alleged spies, Anna Chapman of New York and Mikael Semenko of Arlington, Va., are believed to be single with no children.
Cases involving the arrests of both parents on spying charges are rare in the U.S. One of the most high-profile cases was Robert Meeropol, who was orphaned as a child after his parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were executed on spy charges during the McCarthy era. Meeropol now runs The Rosenberg Fund for Children, an organization aimed at providing emotional and educational support for children in the U.S. whose parents “have suffered because of their progressive activities,” according to
the foundation’s website.
Meeropol was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.