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Sheriff: Criminal charges to come in balloon case

October 17, 2009 9:02:43 PM PDT
Criminal charges will be filed in the helium balloon incident in Colorado, according to the sheriff investigating the bizarre case. Reports that a 6-year old boy was trapped in a runaway weather balloon Thursday turned out to be untrue.

If it was publicity this family wanted, they've certainly have gotten it. But with that attention also comes intense scrutiny by law enforcement. Scrutiny, the sheriff says, will result in charges.

There were more signs Saturday that the incident was a high-flying, high-profile hoax.

"We're in the process of drafting and getting some search warrants. We do anticipate at some point in the future there will be some criminal charges filed with regards to this incident," said Sheriff Jim Alderden, Larimer County, Colorado

Richard Heene and his wife spent a good part of the afternoon and evening answering questions from sheriff's investigators.

Mr. Heene had less to say to reporters.

"I was talking to the sheriff's department just now, moving things along. We're doing well," he said and did not respond to a question about possible criminal charges.

Earlier in the day, Richard Heene continued to deny that he staged the whole thing as a publicity stunt.

He is an amateur storm chaser, and the family once appeared on the ABC show "Wife Swap." There are reports the Heene couple was shopping a reality series starring their family.

But Mr. Heene sounded frantic when he dialed 911 Thursday to report his 6-year-old son may have been aboard the balloon as it sailed across the Colorado sky.

"Friends are telling me, they're saying this and that, I have no idea what the news is saying," Heene said. "I don't have cable."

The sheriff in Colorado said Saturday night that the misdemeanor charges he plans to seek may not be the end of the Heene family's time in the legal spotlight.

"We certainly want to talk to the FAA officials and federal officials to see if there aren't additional federal charges that would be more appropriate in the circumstances than what we're able to do locally," he said.

The sheriff said he would hold another news conference Sunday, presumably where he would announce the local charges.

Richard Heene had promised to answer all of reporters questions Saturday, as well as make what he called a big announcement. But he got quiet after spending hours with investigators.


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