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Could Child Protective Services Take Balloon Boy from Richard and Mayumi Heene?

(ABC)
Photo: Clockwise from back left, Richard, Mayumi, Ryan, Falcon and Bradford Heene are shown at their Fort Collins, Colo. Home, Nov. 15, 2008.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS/AP) Richard and Mayumi Heene, in all their alleged balloon boy hoax glory, have been reported to child protective services in Colorado, according to Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden.

Photos: The Bizarre "Balloon Boy" Incident

Now the question is whether the couple that lost their silver weather balloon will lose their three boys after CPS investigates the children's well-being.

"Clearly, from all indications, Mr. Heene has somewhat of a temper," Alderden said in a press conference on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009.

"We have a concern, but we didn't have enough that would allow us or child protective services to physically take the kids from that environment," Alderden said.

Liz McDonough, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Human Services, refused to comment on the Heene case specifically, but she told Crimesider that child protective services works very closely with law enforcement in the initial stages of their investigation.

The county CPS office, which will work the case, shares information with local police before "coming to an informed decision if a full-blown investigation" is warranted, McDonough said.

"Each case is different," McDonough said, "but usually involves going over police records, interviews with family members, meeting with the person making the referral to us, and reviewing medical charts."

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Photo: Falcon Heene, 6, sits outside his Fort Collins, Colo., Oct. 15, 2009.

Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor who is not involved in this case, told CBS' "The Early Show" that losing their children is a real possibility. Richard and Mayumi Heene don't have to be charged with a crime, Murphy said, in order for Protective Services to come in and take their children away.

"All they have to have is evidence of neglect or abuse," she said. "And boy, I think they've got plenty of that here."

Murphy said if the Heenes made their child participate even in a minor crime, that's grounds for removal.

"That's when Child Protective Services is likely to get involved whether they're charged or not and we're hearing that they will, in fact, be charged," she said.

Records show that police have responded to the house at least twice in the past year, including a possible domestic violence incident in February. No charges were filed.

Alderden said officials tried Saturday to persuade Mayumi Heene, 45, to go to a safe house, but she declined.

"We talked to her at length about domestic violence, about her safety, about her children's safety," the sheriff said.

Alderden said the children were still with the parents Sunday.

The Heene family appeared in two episodes of ABC's "Wife Swap," in which Heene was portrayed as erratic, at one point throwing a glass of milk at a participant on the program.

(MySpace.com)
Photo: Richard Heene.

The most serious charges the mom and dad face in the balloon case are felonies and carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Alderden said authorities would be seeking restitution for the costs of recovering the balloon, though he didn't have an estimate.

The cost for just the two military helicopters was about $14,500.

The sheriff said all three of the Heenes' sons knew of the hoax, but likely won't face charges because of their ages. The oldest is 10.

The balloon stunt almost temporarily shut down Denver International Airport and caused the National Guard to scramble two helicopters in an attempt to rescue the boy, who was believed to be inside the flying-saucer shaped homemade balloon that hurtled more than 50 miles across two counties.

The parents weren't under arrest as of Monday, the sheriff said. He said he expected to recommend charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, making a false report to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant. Federal charges were also possible.

The drama played out on live television to millions of viewers worldwide. When the balloon landed without the boy in it, officials thought he had fallen out and began a grim search for his body.

Lawyer David Lane, attorney for the Heene family, said Alderden should "put up or shut up" about domestic violence.

"For the sheriff to put out for public consumption that Richard is a wife beater and not have any charges even considered to be filed is irresponsible and is designed solely to turn the public even more against the Heenes, in particular Richard," Lane said.

MEDIA
Photos: The Bizarre "Balloon Boy" Incident
Audio: Richard Heene's Frantic 911 Call

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