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Sheriff States the Obvious on Balloon Clan: "This Is Not a Typical American Family"

Heene Family, Wife Swap ABC

UPDATE: Listen to the 911 call made by Mayumi Heene yesterday in which she cries to the operator that her son took off 20 minutes beforehand in a "flying saucer."

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The public sentiment toward the Heenes may be turning (or at least growing increasingly suspicious), but the Larimer County Sheriff's Department isn't as convinced that Team Balloon is full of hot air.

"I would say this is not a typical American family," Sheriff Jim Alderden said at a press conference this morning of the clan's penchant for stormchasing and reality TV. "They engage in behaviors a lot of us don't. Obviously, it's very different family dynamics than most of us experience."

But wacky dynamics do not hoaxsters make. At least not without better evidence than a frightened, physically ill child's news show non sequiturs.

"We want to reinterview them, clarify that, and put that to rest," he said of little Falcon's much-scrutinized remarks on CNN last night that he released the family's homemade helium balloon "for a show."

"It adds to the public skepticism as to whether this could be a hoax or not," Alderden said. "I don't know that that proves one way or another."

And make no mistake, while the department is, for the time being, skeptical that any ulterior motives were in play, it is more than ready to dole out justice if need be.

"If this turns out to be a false report, we certainly would seek criminal restitution. But we would have to be convinced, and it would have to be proven in court, not just based on speculation.

"If this is determined to be a hoax, the only thing we really have is making a false report to authorities, which is a misdemeanor."

Make that a very lowly classed misdemeanor. Which begged the question why bother pressing such a minor charge, should it come to that.

"'Cause you guys won't get off our backs about it," Alderden laughed. But seriously, folks...

"Clearly, we spent a lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of resources on this, and if there's criminal conduct associated with this, even if it's minor, we do need to send a message and get to the bottom of it and let the public know we're doing our job as best we can."

As it is, Alderden said the sheriff's department would be speaking with the family again soon, though not immediately, as they clearly need a grace period to recover from the "emotional and physical state that they were in this morning" when making the morning show rounds.

"Based on what we saw this morning, we may wait until tomorrow to start a dialogue. We might contact them [today], but won't interview until tomorrow."

We're hoping they—and their stomachs—will have calmed down by then.

But as it turns out, the Sheriff's Department will actually be continuing a dialogue with the Heenes that started in February, when a deputy went to their house to follow up on a hang-up call to 911.

The deputy heard someone yelling from outside the house and, once inside, noticed a mark on Mayumi Heeme's face and a busted blood vessel in her eye.

She said she had been having trouble with her contact lense and Richard Heene said he had been yelling because the kids had stayed up past bedtime.

No charges were ever filed, but it was one of three 911 calls made at the house this year that resulted in a police report.

(Originally published Oct. 16, 2009, at 12:15 p.m. PT)

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Missed the Heene family's projectile appearance on the Today show this morning? Put down your food and check it out.

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