Man arrested in Toomer’s Corner trees poisoning case

Updated: Feb. 18, 2011 at 3:35 PM CST
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Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

AUBURN, AL (WSFA) - Dressed in black and white stripes, the formerTexas State Trooper who retired to Dadeville nodded and spoke occasionally to Circuit Judge Richard Hughes. Court documents show Harvey Updyke admitted to police that he made two phone calls stating his involvement in poisoning Auburn University's 130-year old oaks trees on Toomer's Corner, but he later denied poisoning the landmarks.

The first call was to "The Paul Finebaum Show" on January 27th. Court records show the second phone call was to an Auburn University professor on February 7th, in which Updyke claimed he had knowledge of the poisoning. Investigators matched the voice and phone numbers on the calls to Updyke and moved to arrest him. 

The arrest  came fewer than 24 hours after Auburn University confirmed the poisoning of the large oaks at the corner of College and Magnolia, two historic trees that mark the entrance to campus and the rallying place of celebrating Tiger fans.

Updyke, 62, was arrested early Thursday morning, accused of dumping a highly lethal herbicide called Spike 80DF on the oaks. Updyke, who supports Auburn University's arch-rival UA Crimson Tide, was charged with Criminal Mischief 1st degree, a felony. Many Tide fans have come out strongly condemning Updyke's actions.

At last check he still being held on $50,000 bond at the Lee County Detention Facility.

Conditions of bond that must be met by Updyke: [Read Updyke's court documents (.PDF)]

  1. Prohibited from being present on the Auburn University Campus or any auburn university property or facilities
  2. Cannot harass, annoy or otherwise commit any acts which would cause alarm toward any witnesses in this case, any Auburn University officials, students or law enforcement officials.
  3. Cannot possess any firearms, weapons, or any toxic or dangerous chemicals, substances or herbicides
  4. Must complete an anger management program
  5. Must be required to remain in regular contact with the bondsman who posts bond and he comply with any conditions set by said bondsman
  6. Cannot commit additional criminal offenses while on bond.

"This is good news for the campus and community, especially since we delayed announcing the bad news about the trees for a few days to protect the investigation that was in progress," said Auburn University President Dr. Jay Gogue. "We're proud of the City of Auburn's police department and hope this arrest brings a sense of resolution to our fans."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, State of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (Pesticide Management Section), Tallapoosa County Sheriff's Office, Dadeville Police Department, and Auburn University are all involved in the case.

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said he does not anticipate further arrests, but he did not rule it out.

A Facebook profile with limited access registered to a "Harvey Updyke", including a photo that resembles the man in an earlier released mugshot, showed a man holding a baby and wearing a University of Alabama hat. The profile indicated the man lives in Mobile, Ala. and is a retired Texas State Trooper. The profile was taken down a short time before noon.

Criminal mischief in the first degree
(Section 13A-7-21)

(a) A person commits the crime of criminal mischief in the first degree if, with intent to damage property, and having no right to do so or any reasonable ground to believe that he or she has such right, he or she inflicts damages to property:

(1) In an amount exceeding $2,500 or

(2) By means of an explosion

(b) Criminal mischief is the first degree is a Class C felony

SENTENCING - Standard sentence is one year plus one day and a maximum of 10 years.

FINES - Up to $15,000, as well as restitution and court costs.

Note - These are merely codes. Actual punishments against the accused in this case have not been lodged. The suspect is innocent until proven guilty. 

Copyright 2011 WSFA 12 News. WTVM and WBRC contributed to this report. All rights reserved.