Arrest made in Toomer's Corner oak tree poisoning - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Arrest made in Toomer's Corner oak tree poisoning

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AUBURN, AL (WAFF) - Auburn Police made an arrest in the Toomer's Corner Oak tree poisoning case.

62-year-old Harvey Almorn Updyke from Dadeville was charged with criminal mischief, a class C felony. His bond is set at $50,000 with conditions that include staying a away from Auburn University, Auburn officials, and Auburn students.  He can also not have any firearms, weapons or dangerous chemicals, and must complete an anger management program.

According to police, Updyke was arrested at the Auburn Police Department at 1:26 Thursday morning.

He appeared in a Lee County courtroom just after noon. Court documents show that Updyke's court-appointed attorney wants off the case. Phillip Tyler has filed a motion asking to be allowed to withdraw because his firm works with Auburn University and because he's a former part-time professor at Auburn. The judge hasn't made a decision just yet.

According to Updyke's Facebook page, he is a retired Texas State Trooper.

The university learned that a caller to The Paul Finebaum Show, a nationally syndicated radio show based in Birmingham, on January 27, claimed he had applied the herbicide.

[Hear the call on the Paul Finebaum Show (mp3)]

Soil samples taken the next day revealed that the trees had been poisoned using Spike 80DF herbicide and the historic oak trees will likely not survive.

Auburn University tree experts said they are not sure how much longer the trees will live and the herbicide has moved into the soil. They said as the weather warms up, the tree will soak up the herbicide faster.

University officials said they want to hold out hope that the trees will survive, but with the high concentration of herbicide applied, there's a low probability the trees will live.

They also said several efforts are underway to try to save the oak trees, but root density is hurting efforts to save them.

Experts said the poison will have very little impact on the ground water supply.

At a Thursday morning news conference, Auburn Mayor Bill Ham, Jr. said while this is a sad event, it will bring the Auburn community closer.


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