During a Friday press conference, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said, "We believe at this time it's a real event. People are free to speculate, be skeptical about it." He added that law enforcement has "to work on fact."
The family's story riveted the nation's attention Thursday, thanks to live television footage of a silver hot-air balloon streaking through the Colorado sky. Richard Heene, a weather scientist, said he feared his son was on board and in mortal danger.
Alderden said that Richard Heene first called the FAA, then the local television station because he believed they had a helicopter in the air nearby, and finally 911.
That sequence might explain why Mayumi Heene told a 911 operator that she was calling 20 minutes after she believed her son flew away in a "flying saucer" like balloon.
Alderden said officials have contacted Child Protective Services in the matter.
He reiterated his earlier statement that law enforcement would interview the family again after Falcon Heene's Thursday statement on CNN, when the boy was asked why he didn't come out of hiding when his family called his name. His answer: "You guys said, that, um, we did this for the show."
That comment had fueled a round of media and Internet speculation that the Heene family was involved in a clever media stunt. They have been featured twice on ABC's "Wife Swap."
The sheriff was quick to point out that this situation was unique. "This is not a typical American family. I don't know how many of us have been involved in reality TV shows," he said.
Will the sheriff's press conference put the speculation to rest? We'll see.