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Spy suspects' neighbors ask: What about Paul?

Published Oct. 6, 2005

After the FBI arrested Aldrich and Rosario Ames, neighbors anxiously asked: What about Paul? They were concerned about the spy suspects' gregarious 6-year-old son, whom they had watched sledding and walking with his doting dad.

Lawyers for the Ameses, who were arrested last week on suspicion of selling national secrets to the Russians, won't say where Paul is. The FBI told neighbors he is staying with a relative.

A federal magistrate will decide today whether the government can keep the couple in custody pending trial, or whether they will be released on bail and can be with their son.

Cute, adorable and lively were the words used to characterize the dark-haired, well-groomed boy who seemed to make an impression on affluent North Randolph Street. Neighbors described his parents as pleasant, low-key people who ostensibly were able to pay cash for their $540,000 house thanks to money from Mrs. Ames' family in Colombia.

"When they came to my house on Monday night, we asked, "What about the little boy?' " said James R. Ward, a retired Navy captain.

"I'm very concerned about him," said Tommye Morton, who lives across the street from the Ameses.

She said Paul was cute but also "kind of a loud little kid."

"He was a sweet little kid, and very bright. He spoke Spanish and English," said next-door neighbor Myra McDonough, whose visiting grandchildren reveled in Paul's huge toy collection when they came to play with him. "I'd be out in back and he'd say, "Myra, come here.' He'd want to show me something."

With no other small children in the immediate area, Paul Ames stood out, a cheerful boy who was always ready with a greeting for neighbors.

Randolph Street is the kind of neighborhood where residents rarely socialize together but are pleasant when they chance upon each other.

Paul's 52-year-old father, who went by the name Rick, was a veteran CIA counterintelligence officer and portrayed himself as a Foreign Service officer of the State Department. He was devoted to the child, neighbors said.

"Rick would look at Paul and his eyes would glow," McDonough said.

During the recent heavy snows, the two were seen sliding on a makeshift sled.

Paul had been enrolled in the Marymount Child Development Center, a private preschool affiliated with Marymount University, but no longer attends there, said university spokeswoman Molly Cromwell.

Mrs. Morton said Mrs. Ames last fall told of having to complete an elaborate application process to get Paul accepted in an exclusive school in Alexandria, Va. But the Ameses subsequently withdrew him and sent him to a school closer to home because he was "stressed out" at the new school, Mrs. Morton said.

A former nanny, Maria Trinidad Chirino, who cared for Paul nearly four years ago, described Mrs. Ames as impatient with the boy. She told the Washington Post that when the parents were not at home, they directed her to stay out of the house with the child for hours at a time.

She unsuccessfully took the Ameses to court for two weeks' pay and a week's vacation after they fired her in October 1990. Jacqueline Clark, president of A Choice Nanny Franchise Systems, which sent the woman to the Ameses, said her records reflect they had communications problems and "typical yuppie-parent-nanny differences," with complaints from both parties.