Man arrested for poisoning trees at Toomer’s Corner

Published 3:14pm Thursday, February 17, 2011

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — A 62-year-old Dadeville man has been arrested in connection with the poisoning of the historic Toomer’s Corner oak trees at Auburn University.

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr. was arrested at the police station at 1:26 a.m. Thursday and was charged with one count of criminal mischief first degree. He said Updyke could face other charges, but would not confirm that the Dadeville man turned himself in. He said he arrived at the jail without an attorney.


A spokeswoman for the Lee County Sheriff Office said Updyke was arrested early Thursday morning and charged with one count of first-degree criminal mischief.

Bond was set at $50,000. If convicted, Updyke could face one to 10 years in prison.

A man claiming to be “Al from Dadeville” phoned a radio show late last month, claiming he poured herbicide around the 130-year-old oaks that are the scene of celebrations after Auburn’s sports victories.

Dawson would not confirm that Updyke was the person who called the radio show.

Dozens of students and fans attended a news conference held by university and city officials Thursday morning on campus. The two nearby oaks still had remnants of toilet paper from groups of fans who gathered at Toomer’s Corner Thursday night after hearing of the poisoning.

Orange and blue pompoms were laid at the base of the trees along with signs, including one that read “get well soon.”

Stephen Enloe, an assistant professor of agronomy and soil, said consultation with herbicide experts around the country indicated that there was a “low probability” that the trees will survive.

The trees were poisoned with a herbicide Spike 80DF, that is used to kill trees.

Gary Keever, a horticulture professor, said Thursday that Spike 80DF can sometimes inhibit growth for as long as seven years.

He said one possible cure would be to excavate and replace the soil. Keever said workers started treating the soil Thursday morning and are still looking for other solutions.

  • ionsparrow

    Lord, help me to refrain from commenting…help me to keep my mouth shut…help me…help me. Okay. Thanks, Lord. Moving on….WAR EAGLE!!!!!

  • D-Man

    if this guy would do something like this, he’s a danger to himself and society as a whole.

    next you could see him trying to poison the coach or something out of his hate and mental confusion.

    he possibly destroyed many years of traditions at Auburn University and greatly embarrassed the majority of fans (who I’m assuming are making public statements condemning this act).

    maximum sentence allowed. i’d be saying the same thing if the tables were reversed.

    the leadership at alabama needs to step up and public-ally condemn this man and anyone with similar thoughts immediately.

  • yellowroseofTexas

    I hope the trees can still be saved in spite of previous opinions. The question is how did this man obtain Spike 80DF;it is my understanding that this is a controlled herbicide.
    War Eagle!!

    • lolcats

      “controlled herbicide” apparently means there is a VERY stiff warning on the label…

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  • e1948eas

    I dislike everything about Auburn, even more so since they outbid Mississippi for “Cam”. He said that he does nothing without a meeting with Mom and Dad so does anyone really think he wasn’t in on the negotiations? Please!
    I only wish Alabama had outbid them. Smile. But, I’m getting off the subject already. I think ANYONE is a low life _______ that destroys or even attempts to another’s property. Of course that would be the eagle, tiger, trees , etc. Give the idiot the maximum. And NO, he’s not a real Bama fan either,only an idiot.
    “ROLL TIDE”!

    • FFWifey2B

      I couldn’t agree more! Whether he’s a tide or tiger fan is insignificant at this point, he is an ignorant malicious criminal and he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Oh and ROLL TIDE.

    • passingtime

      Agreeing, he is an idiot!!! Most real BAMA fans have more class! I guess there is stupidity in every group.
      I hate that he said he was a bama fan!! IDIOCRACY!! Maximum penalty is deserved! Roll Tide, anyway

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