Florida man used weather balloon to make suicide look like murder, police say

It was a plot straight out of “CSI: Las Vegas.” In fact, it eerily followed the script from a 2003 episode of the fictional crime drama television series.

Explore>> Read more trending news

Police said a 71-year-old Florida man staged his suicide in January to look like a murder, buying string, two weather balloons and tanks of helium.

Alan J. Abrahamson was found dead by a dog near his $900,000 Palm Beach Gardens home on the morning of Jan. 25. The dog ran to the body, which was lying in a palmetto-lined field, The Washington Post reported.

Abrahamson was lying on his back with a bullet hole in his sweatshirt. Detectives found few clues. There was no weapon, no shell casings and no sign of a struggle the Post reported.

An autopsy revealed that there was a hollow-point bullet lodged in Abrahamson’s chest, which had penetrated his heart and lungs. Police were treating the case as a murder, the newspaper reported.

The case took a strange twist a week later. According to police reports, Abrahamson’s wife, Linda, had helped police by unlocking her husband’s phone.

One email showed an order he placed on Dec. 25 for a 40-cubic-foot weather balloon, the Post reported.

That led one detective to suggest a strange theory.

“Det. (Bryan) Broehm theorized that it possibly was not a homicide, but possibly a suicide,” according to the investigation report. “That he tied a gun to a string, and attached it to the weather balloon, and once the shot was fired the weather balloon ascended carrying the weapon from the scene.”

Police researchers found two examples that were similar to Abrahamson's case, the Post reported. In 2008, a man tried to fake his murder by using a bundle of helium balloons, but his gun was carried into a cactus near his body.

The other example was more plausible, coming from a 2003 episode of "CSI: Las Vegas."

On Feb. 5, police returned to the site where Abrahamson was found. Near a wall, they found rubber bands and some knotted string. The next day, a forensics investigator found a thin, straight trail of blood leading from Abrahamson’s gunshot wound toward his shoulder, indicating that something had dragged the blood to the top of his shirt, according to the forensics report.

A detective contacted the online company that Abrahamson bought the balloon from, the Post reported.

“I asked (the owner) how far a 600-gram balloon can travel,” the detective wrote in his report. “He advised me he launched a balloon on Monday in Huntsville, Alabama, and 18 hours later it burst in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey.”

In March, detectives contacted Abrahamson's family and said the case was closed and ruled a suicide, the Post reported. The police's final report was released this week, and a spokesman would not speculate on what Abrahamson's motive might have been, the newspaper said. The family has not commented.

About the Author