FORT COLLINS, Colorado – Pity the family at the center of the Balloon Boy spectacle?
In Fort Collins, some folks are starting to feel a bit sorry for the much-maligned Heene family, accused of concocting a hoax about a boy carried away by an out-of-control flying saucer.
There was a bouquet of flowers and a card outside the home of Richard and Mayumi Heene on Monday. The couple reported their 6-year-old son Falcon had been carried away by a homemade helium balloon Oct. 15; he was later found hiding in an attic at the family home.
Authorities say the Heenes caused a public panic when they allegedly knew he was safe in their home. Since then, public condemnation of the family has been brutal. Family members have spent their days waiting be arrested while scurrying to avoid news photographers camped outside.
People have called the Heenes unfit parents, attention hogs and worse.
It was enough to inspire two women to call on neighbors to show a little compassion by encouraging people to leave kind notes and flowers in their yard. Only a single bouquet and note had appeared by midday Monday, but interviews with neighbors showed that plenty think the Heenes have had it too rough.
"I just feel sorry for the kids at this point. Who doesn't?" said 34-year-old Kelly Notafrancesco, who was shopping with her two children.
Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden has said that the Heene parents both will face charges including conspiracy and false reporting, though they hadn't been arrested by Monday. The sheriff says the Heenes staged the hoax in hopes of landing a deal for a reality TV show.
The balloon saga was starting to chafe on folks in Fort Collins who want the story — and the phalanx of reporters and photographers — to go away.
But that doesn't mean everyone is ready to forgive.
"A lot of things on the news are blown out of proportion," said Ron Quinn, 64, an electrician in Fort Collins. "But at the same time, I can't say I feel sorry for them."