'Balloon boy' family face hoax charges

Colorado sheriff wants tough action over airborne chase after authorities and the media were ‘manipulated’

The Colorado sheriff investigating the bizarre balloon-boy incident on Thursday, when millions of Americans thought that a flying saucer-shaped mini-blimp zipping over the high plains was carrying a six-year-old child, said yesterday he considered it a "hoax" and that criminal charges would be filed.

The boy's parents "put on a good show for us and we bought it," said Sheriff Jim Alderden of Fort Collins at a press conference. "We believe that at some point we will present a case filing to the District Attorney. At this point we have not filed charges. We need time to regroup." The charges he envisaged would include conspiracy and false reporting to authorities. The most serious carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison and a $500,000 (£300,000) fine.

Asked whether he had been involved in a case such as this before, he said: "On a bizarre meter, this rates at 10."

Suspicion that the episode – which hijacked the schedules of every news channel in the land and sent the military and the Colorado police scrambling to avert a tragedy – may have been a hoax had been gathering since the boy, Falcon Heene, was found hiding in a box in the roof of the family garage.

Sheriff Alderden confirmed he had originally been inclined to accept the story offered by Richard and Mayumi Heene, the boy's parents, that the home-made contraption had slipped its tether ropes accidentally and that they had been led to believe by another of their sons that Falcon had climbed inside.

But he said the authorities had an "ah-ha moment" on Thursday night when Falcon looked at his father during a CNN interview and remarked, "You said we did this for a show". Falcon got sick during two separate TV interviews Friday when asked again why he hid. Sheriff Alderden said that all three of the Heene's children knew of the balloon hoax, but probably won't face charges because of their ages.

Interviews with the parents on Saturday resulted in enough information to get a warrant to search the house. The Sheriff said they were looking for computers, emails, phone records and financial records.

It had also surfaced that Mr Heene, an inventor and storm chaser, may have had marginally more show-business sense than most as an alumnus of an ABC TV reality show called Wife Swap.

"Clearly we were manipulated by the family and the media was manipulated," the Sheriff said. Questions might be raised whether any media outlets knew in advance of the hoax, he added.

In addition to the charges the Sheriff anticipated expected to file, he would be meeting with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and with federal aviation officials to see whether any further federal charges might be considered in the case, he said. All charges are likely to be filed against both parents.

Mr Heene and his wife were questioned separately by police on Saturday. Alderden said that plans were also made after the incident to conduct a polygraph test on the boy's father. He could not say if the test had happened or what the results were.

A lawyer representing the Heenes has said his clients were willing to turn themselves in to face any charges. Denver attorney David Lane said that he was representing Richard and Mayumi Heene. He says he wants to avoid "the public spectacle and humiliation" of police arresting them in the presence of their children. Mr Lane said he has advised the family not to make any statements on the matter.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform