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Boy in balloon hoax: Jury is still out on the Heenes

On Friday, sheriff stood by the Heenes' story that there is no boy in balloon hoax. But he'll reinterview them.

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But the Heenes' previous stints on ABC's reality TV show "Wife Swap" have led some to suggest the family might have simply been after media attention.

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In addition to their television appearances, the family has also posted numerous videos on YouTube, including a homemade science series called "The Psyience Detectives," which Mr. Heene co-hosts.

A former colleague of Mr. Heene has questioned his story.

"I believe that Richard had a plan to send this craft aloft," Scott Stevens told NBC News on Friday. Mr. Stevens used to work as a "storm chaser" with Heene but says the two had a falling out when Heene insisted on bringing his boys along to search for storms. "Whether it was to leave the illusion that there was a boy on board, I don't know. [But] I believe it was a premeditated launch," Stevens said.

The Heenes' fellow contestant on "Wife Swap," Sheree Silver, told "The Early Show" Friday that her first thought when hearing about the balloon incident was, "Richard, did you do this on purpose?"

Sheriff believes the Heenes

Despite Friday's controversy, one important person is standing by the Heenes – Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden.

"We were convinced yesterday after talking to the parents and having investigators on the scene ... that the parents were being honest with us," Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said in a press conference Friday. In light of recent media interviews given by the Heenes, however, he said he would like to reinterview the family over the weekend.

Challenged repeatedly by the press corps at the news conference about the veracity of the Heenes' story, Sheriff Alderden said: "We believe at this time that is is a real event."

Possible repercussions

If the runaway balloon was a hoax, Alderden said on "Good Morning America" Friday, the first step would probably be to charge the family with making a false report, a misdemeanor offense.

Others have speculated that a bill for the rescue attempts might come the Heenes' way.

"The real liability the parents should be concerned about in the event it was a hoax will be all the costs associated with the 'rescue,' " writes Erin Geiger Smith of Business Insider. "And the law enforcement costs would just be the tip of the iceberg. There's the news helicopter the father apparently requested track the balloon. There's the fact that planes from the Denver airport didn't take off for at least a short period of time."


To read about the extraordinary efforts that went into Thursday's rescue attempt, click here.