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Florida man’s murder was really elaborate suicide by balloon, police say

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – At 71, Alan Abrahamson had started taking early morning walks, explaining he was hoping to shed the weight he gained on a recent cruise.

On the morning of Jan. 25 he left his $900,000 home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., for that walk, with a camera in his gated country-club community recording him at 5:53am. At 6:30am, the camera picked up the sound of a gunshot. Abrahamson was dead.

It was assumed to be murder, but there was no indication of a struggle and no weapon or shell casing. The Palm Beach Post reports there was just one unusual clue at the scene: a very thin line of blood that ran from the wound in his heart to his shoulder.

But when police accessed Abrahamson’s email, they found something else: He had purchased two weather balloons, though no one they interviewed thought he had any interest in weather balloons, weather, or aerial photography.

His internet history gave up more secrets: He had emailed the seller four times asking about things like burst altitude; his Google Maps history revealed a Jan. 23 visit to an industrial supply store where police learned he had bought a 40-cubic-foot helium tank; internet searches regarding suicide dated to 2009.

The Washington Post reports one February 2017 search read, “Can you have a gunshot suicide with no weapon present?”

What police described as a “far-fetched” but “plausible” theory formed: That Abrahamson attached a gun to the balloon, ran a string from the trigger to his finger, and shot himself, with the balloon carrying away the weapon and the string dragging that line of blood across his sweatshirt.

Using a simulator, they determined the balloon could have carried a gun north of the Bahamas and into the Atlantic. By early March, they had closed the case, ruling it a suicide.

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