GYPSUM, Colorado - The story began circulating in October: A boy with leukemia had moved with his family to spend his final days in the Colorado mountains.
The Eagle Valley High School team in Gypsum drew inspiration from the tale and dedicated a game to the 9-year-old boy known as Alex. A radio station took up the cause, and a Facebook page bearing his picture drew more than 1,000 followers.
However, the story began to unravel when he failed to show up at the game, and the woman spreading the story said he suffered a seizure and could not attend. It wasn't long before she said he died.
She submitted an obituary to local media, but no one could find a death certificate, The Vail Daily reported.
Police are now calling the story a hoax and investigating whether it violated any laws.
"This story just shows the best of human nature and the worst of human nature," said Holli Snyder, general manager of NRC Broadcasting, parent company of KSKE, which broadcast the story.
Authorities are trying to determine if the 22-year-old woman who spread the story collected any money from the hoax, Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said Thursday.
So far, they haven't found any evidence that she did.
"It hinges on whether any money was taken," Hurlbert said about the possibility of charges.
The woman has not been identified by authorities. The photo of the boy was traced to a Kids Cancer Crusade website and turned out to a South African boy who is still alive.
People told the newspaper they felt guilty about perpetuating the hoax but proud about the way the community came together to support a child and make his final days happy ones.
"This story took my heart," said disc jockey Jordon Lyles, who played songs dedicated to Alex at a fall festival. "We are all just good people, when it comes right down to it."