Hayden Panettiere holds hands with ex's brother, months after domestic violence incident

Is Hayden Panettiere moving on from Brian Hickerson — with his brother? The Nashville actress was photographed holding hands with Zach Hickerson and there are conflicting reports as to what it all means.

E! News obtained the photos of Panettiere and Zach strolling around New York City together on Sept. 4, four months after Brian was arrested for domestic violence.

Actress Hayden Panettiere arrives at the 21st Annual Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California January 17, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

"They looked very comfortable. Like a real couple," a source shared of their afternoon walk around Soho. "They looked playful, happy and also very close and affectionate." Even after spotting a photographer, the witness claimed the two "continued holding hands, laughing and smiling."

However, a source claims to People that the hand-holding was platonic: "Hayden and Zach are friends and have been for a while."

The 30-year-old actress split with Brian Hickerson after an alleged violent altercation in May. Hickerson, 30, was arrested after a reported late-night, intoxicated fight between the two. When police arrived to their Los Angeles home they apparently noticed redness and marks on Panettiere’s body and after speaking with both of them, arrested her then-boyfriend. They were photographed holding hands two weeks later. Brian ultimately pleaded not guilty to his charge of felony domestic violence but was ordered to stay away from the former Heroes star. People reports this caused the pair to split and that they have not communicated since May.

Hayden Panettiere and Brian Hickerson in January 2019. (Photo: BACKGRID)

Panettiere's friends and family were skeptical about her relationship with Brian from the start. The actress and Brian, a real estate agent and aspiring actor, were first photographed together in August 2018, as reports confirmed her longtime relationship with boxer Wladimir Klitschko, with whom she shares a 4-year-old daughter Kaya, was over. A string of unsettling reports followed, including an alleged drunken altercation with Brian and his father and that the actress supposedly "gave up her daughter."

E! News reports Panettiere's family and friends are upset she's spending so much time now with Zach, who she "has been leaning on" in the wake of her breakup.

"Many of those closest to her feel hurt by Hayden's decision to spend time with Zach after they supported her move to NYC with the hopes that it would bring a fresh start to her life," the source said. "A month ago everyone was feeling very optimistic about her situation, but the consensus now is that Hayden simply doesn't want to get her life back on track."

A publicist for Panettiere did not respond to Yahoo Entertainment's request for comment.

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