Investigation underway in Goblin Valley rock toppling

Posted at 9:28 PM, Oct 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-29 23:28:04-04

GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK -- Criminal charges are on hold but still under investigation against the so-called “goblin topplers.”

It's been more than two weeks since a dinosaur-era sandstone rock was pushed over at Goblin Valley State Park.

The goblins, or hoodoos as they're also called, seem to defy gravity and the imagination.

"There's not any other place you can go see a spot just like this," said Tree Gore, a visitor from Alaska.

The rock formations were once under water and have been weathered over 170 million years. On Tuesday the Jurassic period boulders attracted tourists from Alaska to Wyoming, many who have seen the now infamous goblin toppling video on YouTube, which has now been removed for copyright reasons.

Tourists remain outraged that former Boy Scout leader Glenn Taylor toppled the hoodoo as former fellow leader Dave Hall filmed it, and then later posted it online.

Since this is still an open investigation, park rangers wouldn't tell Fox 13 where the toppled hoodoo is but it's in the park for anyone to see. Part of what has tourists so angry is that particular boulder was teetering on a sliver of sand like others, which is part of the appeal and the reason why some travel hundreds of miles to Goblin Valley State Park.

"If it was unsafe, don't be by it but to destroy something that's been like that for thousands of years, it'll never be the same again," said Paul Head, a visitor from Wyoming.

Taylor and Hall have been kicked out of the Boy Scouts but there's mixed opinions about whether that's enough.

"I certainly think criminal charges are justified," Gore said.

"I'm not sure if I agree with a felony charge but definitely make an example of it," said Liz Jones, a visitor from Utah County.

"Community service seems to make more sense," said Gail Head, a visitor from Wyoming.  "Throw 'em in jail, OK, what did he learn?"

Investigators met with Emery County prosecutors at the park Monday.  Investigators are taking their time to determine what's fair and put together a solid case.

"I think one of the issues we'll see is value," said Emery County Attorney David Blackwell.

How do you value a nearly 200-million year-old rock?

"It's really hard to put a price on that," said park ranger Nathan Martinez.

But the answer may determine whether Taylor and Hall face a misdemeanor or felony. Either way, prosecutors are considering criminal mischief charges as some anxiously await action. It's a case that's been a first for rangers and lawyers, all surrounding a toppled piece of living history.

"It's priceless,” Gore said. “I definitely think they should be punished."

The Emery County Attorney believes this incident may inspire some Utah legislators to sponsor new laws that help protect our state parks. It's unclear when investigators will turn over their case to the county attorney's