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Accused Spy’s Wife Vows to Stand By Him

Times Staff Writer

Brenda Reis, wife of suspected spy Jerry A. Whitworth, said Thursday she believes her husband is innocent of charges that he helped sell secret U.S. Navy documents to the Soviet Union.

“During the 12 1/2 years that I have known Jerry, he has never said or done anything which would make me suspect that he would cause harm to the interests of this country,” Reis said in a brief prepared statement.

Whitworth, 46, a retired Navy communications specialist, was arrested Monday in San Francisco on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. Authorities say he is the fourth member of a nationwide spy ring allegedly headed by John A. Walker Jr. that has supplied the Soviets with secret documents for as long as 20 years.

Studying for Ph.D.

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Reis, 30, who is studying for her Ph.D. in nutrition at UC Davis, said she knew nothing of the charges against her husband until FBI agents approached her less than three weeks ago.

“Until Monday, May 20th, we led a quiet life,” she said. “On that day I first became aware of the allegations against my husband when I was confronted by FBI agents when I arrived home from school.

“Since that day our house has been searched twice, personal property has been seized--including all of the analyzed data and research necessary for my dissertation--and my husband has been arrested.”

Reis said she first met Whitworth in 1971 and was married to him in 1976.

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“I believe that he is innocent of the charges made against him,” she said. “I will stand by him and support him in this difficult time.”

Met Through Navy

Ironically, it was the Navy that brought together Reis, a North Dakota farm girl, and Whitworth, the accused spy, according to a childhood friend of Reis who asked to remain anonymous.

Reis, the winner of a high school science contest sponsored by the Navy, received an all-expenses-paid trip to San Diego, where Whitworth was stationed, the friend said. The two met then and kept in touch after she returned home to attend the University of North Dakota for three years.

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Reis, who has been besieged by reporters since Whitworth’s arrest, refused to answer questions after reading her statement for television.

Clyde Blackmon, her attorney, said that after talking with federal investigators he does not expect her to be charged in the case.

“They have made no decision to charge her and are not seeking her arrest,” he said.

Tapes Confiscated

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An FBI inventory of Whitworth’s possessions seized at a storage facility revealed that three boxes marked cryptically “Roger 1,” “IKG722" and “AGK405" were confiscated along with 10 cartons of audio cassette tapes.

The FBI would not discuss what the symbols mean. The items were taken Wednesday from the Yolo Transfer & Storage facility in Davis, which is located several blocks from the trailer park where the couple lived.

Dan Walker, owner of the storage company, said Thursday he was hired to move Whitworth and Reis to the San Jose area this week but that Reis called off the move after Whitworth turned himself in Monday.

Reis apparently had hoped to get a job at the federal Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View, studying the effect of weightlessness on bone degeneration. However, spokesmen for Ames said she was never formally offered any job at the base, where some classified aeronautical research is conducted.

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Studying to Be Stockbroker

Reis said in her statement that since Whitworth retired from the Navy in October, 1983, he has been studying to become a stockbroker.

Whitworth, when he was in the Navy, seemed to have plenty of money to spend and once told a friend he had acquired it by playing the stock market, according to an FBI affidavit filed here in connection with the search of the storage facility.

The document quoted an unidentified friend who said he has known Whitworth since 1968 and has sailed with him near Honolulu. But the friend doubted Whitworth’s explanation for the source of his wealth because the stock transactions he discussed were small, the affidavit said.

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