October 24, 2009 in Nation/World

Mother admitted balloon saga hoax

Court records show admission to police
Dan Elliott Associated Press
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Mayumi Heene
(Full-size photo)

DENVER – The mother of the 6-year-old boy once feared missing inside a runaway helium balloon admitted the whole saga was a hoax, according to court documents released Friday.

Mayumi Heene told sheriff’s deputies that she and her husband Richard “knew all along that Falcon was hiding in the residence” in Fort Collins, according to an affidavit used to get a search warrant for the home.

She allegedly told investigators the incident was a hoax meant to make them more marketable to the media.

“Mayumi described that she and Richard Heene devised this hoax approximately two weeks earlier. … She and Richard had instructed their three children to lie to authorities as well as the media regarding this hoax,” the affidavit said.

Richard Heene has denied a hoax. His lawyer, David Lane, said Friday he is waiting to see the evidence in the case.

“Allegations are cheap,” Lane said.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden has said he will recommend charges against the Heenes including conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, making a false report to authorities, and attempting to influence a public servant. The most serious charges are felonies and carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

Alderden said authorities also would be seeking restitution for the costs of the balloon chase.

In frantic calls to a TV station, 911 and federal aviation officials, the Heenes reported that they feared Falcon was in the homemade, saucer-like balloon when it was accidentally launched from their back yard last week.

Millions watched as media and National Guard helicopters tracked the balloon across the Colorado plains. It landed in a dusty farm field, where ground crews looked inside but found no sign of the boy.

Later, the relieved-looking couple reported Falcon had been hiding in their garage the whole time.

Sheriff’s deputies questioned the parents separately on Oct. 17, two days after the flight. Mayumi Heene told authorities “she and Richard Heene had lied to authorities on October 15, 2009 (the day of the flight),” the affidavit said.

She told investigators “that the release of the flying saucer was intentional as a hoax. … The motive for the fabricated story was to make the Heene family more marketable for future media interest,” the affidavit said.

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