Balloon Boy Mom: Co-Conspirator or Abused Wife?

Slusser said Mayumi Heene confided in her when Richard wasn't around.

"She so needed a friend," she said. "He kept her isolated and separated from everyone else. She honestly asked me one time, 'Is there something wrong with way we live?' She wasn't sure that American women lived this way with her husbands.

"In the same vein, she would say she was totally happy," Slusser added. "She absolutely loved Richard and her family. If you put her foot to the fire she would say nothing is wrong. It doesn't surprise me that there was a domestic violence problem."

Slusser was referring to last February's 911 call from the Heene home. When a Larimer County Sheriff's deputy responded, he found Mayumi Heene with "a mark in her cheek and broken blood vessels in her left eye," according to the report obtained by ABC's Denver affiliate KMGH-TV.

Mayumi Heene told the deputy she was having a problem with her contacts and refused to look the deputy in the eye even after the area around her eye began to swell and turn red, the police report said.

The Larimer County district attorney's office never pressed charges, saying there was a lack of evidence.

On Saturday, the Larimer County Sheriff's Department, concerned about possible violence from Richard Heene against the household, tried to persuade his wife to stay in a safe house. She refused.

Mayumi Heene: Subservient Wife and Mom

"She's the silent sufferer," Slusser said.

Meanwhile, she said, Richard rules the roost. His angry outbursts, seen publicly when the couple appeared twice on "Wife Swap," were a daily occurrence, Slusser said.

The show presented the household as one clearly run by the husband. According to a promo for its first episode, Richard called Mayumi his "ninja wife" because she "maintains equipment, drives the storm-mobile, films tornadoes and waits with the kids while Richard jumps on his motorbike, heads into the eye of the storm and launches rockets to measure magnetic forces."

"While Richard devotes every moment to his research, he expects Mayumi to cook, clean and run the house without any help," the promo continued.

In that episode, which aired October 2008, Richard screamed at Karin, the wife who swapped places with Mayumi: "You're a man's nightmare. I'm so glad my wife was born in Japan."

Slusser said whenever she came over for dinner, Mayumi Heene always cooked -- and remained in the kitchen throughout dinner.

"She wouldn't join us to eat. She'd say, 'No, no, no,' and get very uncomfortable," Slusser said. "The kids would come through and say, 'We want to eat.' They'd grab a whole thing of ice cream and put Mountain Dew on top."

"I always try to be a friend to my kids," Mayumi Heene said on the first episode of "Wife Swap."

In reality, according to Slusser, her three boys -- Falcon, 6; Ryo, 8; and Bradford, 10 -- are out of control, and she's subservient to them.

"She accepts this even from her own children, who are all male," Slusser said. "She considers herself less than all four of them."

That might explain why Mayumi always went along with Richard's schemes and allowed the children to participate, too.

"Richard's the inventive one, the plotter," Slusser said. "He turns to her and she'll be complicit with it. They're like in a reality show all the time. Their lives are scripted however Richard wants it to be."

Slusser said she has little doubt that Mayumi went along with Richard's latest scheme involving Falcon and the helium balloon.

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