Vanessa Hudgens is being investigated for her alleged role in a criminal act involving the actress and her 24-year-old boyfriend, Austin Butler. The pair is accused of defacing one of Arizona’s protected red rocks, a crime that could land both of them in jail. According to a report from NBC News, defacing a “geological object,” like one of the red rocks, would qualify as a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
Police believe Hudgens, who rose to fame due to her portrayal of Gabriella Montez in the High School Musical series, carved a heart — bearing the names Vanessa and Austin — in a protected stone at the Coconino National Forest in Arizona. The couple, who has been dating since 2011, was in the area for Valentines Day and published the picture on Instagram. Now the authorities have launched an investigation into the incident and are studying how to proceed in this regard.
CBS News wrote that the media brought the photo to the attention of the Coconino National Forest, which manages the land around Sedona renowned for the towering red rocks, spokesman Brady Smith was quoted as saying.
“We have found that when one person carves something, it encourages others to carve,” Smith said in a statement. “The incident is currently under investigation so there is not much I can share specifically until it is completed.”
Authorities began the investigation when Vanessa Hudgens uploaded a photo to her Instagram account (which has 15.8 million followers) in which she appeared in the picture with a heart drawn in the rock. Just hours later, the image was erased from the social network.
“Happy Valentine’s Day boo boo bears,” a caption next to the image read.
In the picture, it is not clear if the heart is carved in stone or drawn with chalk. In any case, the act carries a stiff penalty.
Although Smith said he isn’t sure whether law enforcement has located a heart that matches the one posted by Hudgens within the forest’s 250-square-mile Red Rock Ranger District, authorities will be researching social media posts and trying to contact any witnesses.
Smith also stated that any scratches or damage, however small, affects the flora, fauna, and the natural beauty of the area and is something that is forbidden. In relation to how authorities will find the rock with the drawing, the official said that will depend on the researchers who will use photos, benchmarks, and witnesses to trace its location.
Because it is an ongoing investigation, neither of the parties involved have not been charged with an official crime as of yet.
Hudgens and her boyfriend were in the park just days after the singer’s father died of cancer at age 65 on January 30. He died a few hours before Vanessa took the stage and wowed fans with her performance as Rizzo in Grease: Live!
The Coconino National Forest is one of the most diverse National Forests in the country with landscapes ranging from the famous red rocks of Sedona to Ponderosa pine forests, from southwestern desert to alpine tundra, the United States Department of Agriculture wrote on their site. It is a 1.856-million acre United States National Forest that is located in northern Arizona in the vicinity of Flagstaff. It was originally established in 1898 as the “San Francisco Mountains National Forest Reserve.”
[Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]