Viewers had been riveted Thursday by the sight of a flyaway helium balloon feared to be carrying the child. The media wrung the story for all its suspense and tragic possibilities.
Then it turned out to be a happy mistake. Falcon was pronounced safe at home the whole time.
Then it turned out to be what authorities have called a hoax. On Sunday, days after Falcon turned to his dad during a CNN interview and declared "you said we did this for a show," authorities said Richard and Mayumi Heene had cooked up the stunt to land themselves a TV reality series, The Associated Press reports.
Meanwhile, the strange case of Falcon Heene took another twist Sunday when a Colorado sheriff said the boy's parents had staged the runaway balloon saga as a publicity stunt to score a reality television show.
"There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that this was a hoax," Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said at a news conference in Fort Collins. Richard and Mayumi Heene planned the caper for at least two weeks, he said, and are likely to face felony charges.
The sheriff added that some entertainment media might have been complicit, but he refused to identify them. One outlet, he said, had already paid the Heenes in connection with the balloon launch.
The Heenes deny wrongdoing, The Los Angeles Times reports.
It was also reported, Sheriff Jim Alderden convened a news conference on Sunday afternoon telling reporters evidence now shows that Richard and Mayumi Heene lied to police and news media when they reported their six-year-old son, Falcon, had been carried away inside a helium balloon. The Sheriff hopes to see charges filed against the parents for conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, false reporting to authorities, and attempting to influence a public servant. The charges could carry a wide range of penalties, including jail time. The family had rehearsed its story enough to initially deceive investigators. “They put on a good show and we fell for it,” said Alberden, who doubts the couple’s young children will face criminal charges because of their ages, Entertainment Weekly reports.