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.

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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