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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Crime

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Balloon Boy Questions

October 18, 2009 - 4:30 PM | by: Faith Mangan

More from this morning’s news conference:

The sheriff said the hoax appears to have been planned at least two weeks in advance.  They will examine whether there are other co-conspirators.  At least one media outlet had agreed to pay the family money.  His department expects to recommend these charges to the district attorney: conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, false reporting and attempting to influence a public servant (a class 4 felony).

Update as of Sunday, 12:20 p.m. local time:

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said in a news conference a short while ago, it has been determined this is a hoax, a publicity stunt, they have evidence to indicate it was a publicity stunt with hopes of the family marketing themselves for reality TV show in the future.  The media was able to get an up-close look at the balloon (see slideshow).

Update as of 3 p.m. local time:

The family has just posted a notice on the door of their home.  It reads: “Thank you for all of your support.  We are not taking any interview any more.  We are tired.  Thank you.  Heenes.”  A few hours ago, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden held a news conference and said investigators still tend to believe this was not a hoax.  They hope to conduct a follow-up interview with the family tomorrow, after they’ve had a chance to rest.  The sheriff did say if they find evidence of criminal activity, they will seek restitution for the cost of the search operation.  If the facts later support a criminal charge, it would be for making a false report, a misdemeanor.  Also, the sheriff’s department has talked with the county’s child protection agency.

All the local talk this morning boils down to one nagging theme: was this a hoax?  Callers to radio shows and news hosts alike, are pointing out apparent red flags in the chain of events yesterday which led to a frantic, muti-hour, multi-county chase across Colorado for a homemade balloon, at one point believed to be carrying 6-year old Falcon Heene .  One person even said flat out over the broadcast waves, “follow the money trail”.  That’s because the family leads anything but a low profile life — previous adventures chasing storms and experiments have been profiled in the media, including appearances on the reality show Wife Swap.  After giving several rocky media interviews after the boy was found safe (he had been hiding out in an attic at home), the family is now holed up in their Ft. Collins residence, while the street outside is crammed with dozens of satellite trucks.  So far, the Larimer County Sheriff says his investigators don’t think it’s a hoax, but they do plan to effort a follow-up interview with the family today.  We expect to learn more during a news conference that’s scheduled for Noon local time, 2 p.m. ET.  It’s too early to tally how much all of this may have cost, but the initial indication is that authorities do not plan to make the family foot the bill.  Richard Heene told Fox News they were all there when the balloon lifted off, it was expected to rise just 20-feet, but it wasn’t tethered properly and his oldest son told him during the commotion that Falcon was inside the runaway balloon.  Everyone’s wondering how the boy was missed during two searches of the home.

Photo Gallery
The homemade balloon on display in the evidence bay at the sheriff's department
Image 1 of 6
  • The homemade balloon on display in the evidence bay at the sheriff's department
  • Note posted on front door of family's home (Friday)
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