Townspeople Shocked That Former Resident Charged With Espionage With PM-Spy Ring, Bjt
Aug. 27, 1988
SEBRING, Ohio (AP) _ The arrest of former Army Sgt. Clyde Lee Conrad on charges that he reaped enormous profits as head of an international spy ring brought anguish to his family and stunned residents of his hometown.
''I always thought I knew my son,'' Harry Conrad said. ''We were pretty tightly wrapped. If I had had this knowledge before it would have killed me. It's about to kill me now.''
His sister, Karen Henschen, said family members had not spoken with Conrad since his arrest Tuesday in Frankfurt, West Germany. His parents and his sister live in Alliance, about four miles west of this blue collar town where he grew up.
His relatives said they tried to keep in contact with Conrad while he was in the military, but he never wrote back.
''He always distanced himself from us,'' Ms. Henschen said. ''He didn't see big opportunities in Sebring. Joining the military was a way for him to travel.''
Harry Conrad said in a television interview that he had not seen his son in nine years, but other family members said they saw him when he came back in 1985 for a 20-year high school class reunion.
''We love him, and we are quite certain he needs moral support,'' Harry Conrad said. ''There's no way we can take back what has happened, but his mom and dad and family love him and he has our prayers.''
Conrad, 41, enlisted in the Army on Aug. 9, 1965, soon after he graduated from Sebring McKinley High School. Acquaintances said he seldom returned to his hometown, about 55 miles southeast of Cleveland.
West German authorities are holding Conrad on charges of ''compelling suspicion of espionage activities in an especially grave case.'' West German officials said millions of dollars in payments by the Soviets may have been involved.
But few residents of the northeast Ohio city of 5,000 knew much about Conrad.
''He was very quiet, very nice, and he kept mostly to himself, he went to the service at a very early age,'' said Mrs. Robert Blake, who has lived in the same house on McKinley Street for about 30 years. The Conrads lived about four houses away.
John Garrett, who taught at the high school, remembered Conrad as a student who excelled on the track and rifle teams, but never expressed any interest in politics or caused trouble.
''I was very surprised. He went into the service right after high school and he never seemed that outgoing or aggressive as a young person to do something like that,'' said Garrett, 51.
''I went down to the coffee shop and saw some of the people who knew him as a student and they were just stunned. He just wasn't that kind to make waves,'' he said.
Restaurateur Dennis Rohde made light of the news with patrons of his Tin Lantern cafe.
''You want our spy sandwich?'' Rohde asked customers. ''It comes with a secret decoder ring.''
But Rohde admitted the news seemed to have taken residents aback.
''They live in this town for years, and they suddenly have a spy scandal and they say, 'My God, how could it be someone from here?''' said Rohde, 50.
Officials have said the spy ring linked to Conrad was believed to have stolen documents concerning NATO defense plans for Europe and U.S. Army contingency plans for a ground war with the Soviet Union in Europe.
Army records released in Washington said Conrad worked for the U.S. military for 20 years, first as an infantryman and then as an ''administration specialist.''
According to his service records, Conrad received the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, five Army Commendation medals, the Army Achievement Medal, three Meritorious Service medals and seven Good Conduct medals.