Doris Stanley said she and her husband have lived on Trowbridge Street in Cambridge for about 10 years, and still barely speak to anyone. So when a bubbly blonde came to introduce herself early last week as the new neighbor moving in next door, Stanley was delighted.
“I kept thinking how nice this is – finally, there’s someone who’s really friendly,” Stanley, 65, said today from her front porch,. “Most people don’t talk to each other here.”
Those new neighbors, who called themselves Donald Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley, were arrested by federal authorities on Sunday and accused of spying for Russia. They had purchased the condo on June 9 for $790,000.
Stanley, a French teacher, recalled that when her conversation with Ann Foley turned to language, she noticed some inconsistencies in Foley’s dialect.
“I noticed she had an accent, and I said, because I’m nosy, ‘What’s this accent you have?’ ” Stanley said. “And she said ‘I’m from Montreal.’”
Then Stanley and Foley began speaking French, and surprisingly, Stanley said, she was able to understand her new neighbor.
“I was thinking, that’s strange, because I actually understood this person and I usually don’t understand people from Montreal,” she said. “They have this accent that is not Parisian.”
Stanley said she asked Foley why her French dialect was so Parisian. Foley told her it was because she went to school in Switzerland.
“Then it hit me that that’s an odd reason to understand her,” she said. “Your accent doesn’t usually change just because you’ve been somewhere for a while; it’s usually stuck with you no matter what you do.”
When the two women were discussing their children, Stanley said Foley asked her to elaborate when Stanley mentioned her two children were professors. “She seemed very interested,” Stanley said.
Later, Stanley mentioned her father was originally from Odessa, Ukraine, a former Soviet city. In reaction, Foley’s “eyes kind of widened,” Stanley said. “I just thought that was an odd reaction. I thought she was going to say something, but she didn’t.”
Stanley and her husband later watched Foley’s sons carry boxes into the condo, as they moved from up the street.
“They were bringing things like video games and stuff like that, and I thought, how cute,” Foley said. “And the father was helping one of the sons with one of the packages, and I said, ‘Oh, it seems like a nice family.’ ”
Lila Hexner, 85, lived across a shared driveway from the family in a low-key condo complex at 111 Trowbridge St. Hexner said Ann Foley was always friendly, but Heathfield and the sons were noticeably cold.
“They just didn’t want to talk to me,” she said of the couple’s two sons. “I tried, they would sort of look down. … They weren’t interested in interrelating at all.”
Hexner’s interactions with Foley were much different, however.
“She’d say, ‘How are you Lila?’ She was very friendly,” Hexner said. “But she didn’t want to develop any relationships; that’s now very obvious to me.”
Heathfield was hardly ever at the house, Hexner said, but the few times she did see him, he, too, would ignore her.
One time, Hexner recalls encountering the couple walking down the street, and after greeting Foley, she turned to Heathfield.
“I said, ‘Oh, how are you?’ And he sort of shook his head; he didn’t speak,” Hexner said.
Vicky Steinitz 71, who also lives in the complex, said she had little interaction with the family, but remembers that, when they moved in, the young sons attended a bilingual school for French children.
As time went on, they began speaking less and less.
“We don’t stop and chat here,” Steinitz said. “It’s a pretty anonymous place.”