UPDATE--Arrest Made in Toomer's Corner Poisoning

By: al.com
By: al.com

UPDATE 11:05-- Auburn Police confirmed that Harvey Almorn Updyke, 62, of Dadeville was arrested around 1:30am Thursday.

Updyke, accused of dumping a highly lethal herbicide on the 130 year old oak trees at Toomer's Corner is charged with Criminal Mischief 1st degree, but additional charges are possible. He is being held on $50,000 bond at the Lee County Detention Facility.

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.

UPDATE 10:50am---An assistant professor said that the trees were given a very lethal dose of the herbicide and there is a very slim chance that they will survive.

The trees will more than likely go through a leafing cycle when the weather warms up and the herbicide will be absorbed through the roots and up to the leaves.

The leaves will then turn brown and eventually fall off of the tree. A tree can go through several leafing processes over the span of several years.

It is not illegal to purchase the particular herbibide that was used in this case. A person couldn't buy it from Home Depot or Lowe's. The herbicide would have to be bought from a herbicide specialist for personal use.

If the herbicide is used not for personal use as defined by the label, the person is in violation of federal laws.

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The live oak trees of Toomer's Corner on the Auburn University campus are probably dying because of an apparent act of vandalism using a powerful herbicide, the university announced. A press conference is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., among other things to announce an arrest of a suspect.

The site is one of the iconic locations in collegiate sports. A place where fans of the Auburn football team gather, especially after victories to celebrate. Key to the celebrations is the act of rolling the trees, that is tossing streaming rolls of toilet paper into the crowns of the trees.

The vandalism was claimed by a caller to a sports talk radio show. Caller who identified himself as "Al in Dadeville" said he performed his act the weekend after the Nov. 26 Iron Bowl which Auburn won with a stirring come-from-behind victory.

An arrest is reported. The suspect is identified as Harvey Almorn Updyke from Dadeville. The arrest was made Wednesday night. Updyke is reportedly being held on a $50,000 bond.

• The poisoning involves two 130-year-old live oaks at two trees at the corner of College Street and Magnolia Avenue.

• The herbicide used is Spike 89DF at levels up to 51 parts per million, well above a lethal dose normally measured at parts per billion.

• Efforts to save the trees are under way through the use of activated charcoal in the soil to absorb the chemicals and water sprayed on the trees to hydrate them so the roots will draw up less water and potentially less of the herbicide.

• Survival by the trees already is a struggle because of their location in a heavily trafficked area, the toilet papering practice which results in attempts to clean the trees as well as a recent fire -- all of which add more stress.

• Fans rallied to the corners Wednesday evening after the announcement, among other things tossing more streamers of toilet paper into the tree's branches.

• Auburn University President Jay Gogue urged the Auburn community not to strike out in anger for the vandalism.

• University of Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore also issued a statement that called the vandalism "an awful act" for which the vandal needs to be held accountable.


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  • by laura m. Location: dothan on Feb 17, 2011 at 05:23 PM
    Harvey U. is scum, should be made to pay a hefty fine and serve full 10 years. Some one that age ought to have some sense, but he could have a substance abuse problem. Real low life trash.
  • by who cares on Feb 17, 2011 at 04:56 PM
    You know I personal think it is totaly stupit what that guy did , but I have to throw 1 thing out there , yes he should get what is comming to him , and pay with the full extend of what the law has to offer , but , they are talking up to 10 years , a childmolester gets less time , so dont count on it him doing anytime at all .....the whole situation is just to sad ....
  • by BamBam Location: Dothan on Feb 17, 2011 at 03:40 PM
    I am a Bama fan but this is just plain inexcusable behavior for ANY fan of EITHER school. Has this rivalry which is argueably the greatest in college sports gotten so far down in the gutter that anyone from either school would do something like this? This is what happens when the lunatic fringe from both schools are allowed to keep spewing their abnormal hate and anger. Now we can all sit back and wait for retaliation from some lunatic fan from the other side. When will this ever end? Grow up people and stop acting like inmature children. It's time for the rational fans from both schools to ban together to put a stop to the idiots who do this in the name of their school. Both schools are better than this, MUCH BETTER!!!!
  • by Jeff Location: Dothan on Feb 17, 2011 at 11:54 AM
    Tricia, you are spot on. As a student in the 1970s, those trees shaded me, as well as my father before me in the 1940s. This was a blatant act of vandalism on the part of one person, not a fan base or a school. The live oaks are an irreplaceable (that means they cain't git new ones, Ken and Annonymous) part of the campus unlike sod or shrubs. Auburn has damage to their landscaping after every game and not because of bad fans, but massive crouds on campus. It just happens. Regarding the live oaks, U of A Athletic Director Mal Moore stated, "It’s an awful act, a terrible thing to do. A lot of what makes our two programs so special is our many unique traditions. So, hearing this about Toomer’s Corner is upsetting to me in several ways. I certainly hope that whomever is responsible is held accountable." Our rivalry is the greatest in the nation, and all should be proud of this state's accomplishments, both at Alabama and at Auburn. Long live our great rivalry!
  • by Ala Fan Location: Dothan on Feb 17, 2011 at 11:36 AM
    I've been an Alabama fan for as long as I can remember, but this JERK needs to be sentenced to hard labor for the rest of his life. And $50,000.00 bond isn't nearly enough for anyone who is this stupid. He's a disgrace to any normal person.
  • by Trisha Location: Dothan on Feb 17, 2011 at 11:01 AM
    a little bit of grass is easier to replace than 300 year old trees....they are historic markers...this is a travisty of epic proportions that is an embarrassment to ALL FANS of all Universities I am so totally ashamed for the pride of any University to bear such a burden of stupidity and insult to the name of "FAN" ....people...its a ballgame not brain surgery!!!!
  • by Anonymous on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:42 AM
    This is the same kind of moron that destroyed the sod outside of Bryant-Deny stadium after the Iron Bowl this past season.
  • by ken Location: dothan,al on Feb 17, 2011 at 09:49 AM
    Why does no one talk about all the things the Auburn fans have done to the campus at Alabama, or the things that have been done to Nick Saban's Lakeside house?
  • by Alan Location: Killen on Feb 17, 2011 at 09:18 AM
    I wonder how much it'll cost this guy to replace 300 year old trees??? What a moran.
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