Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Accused Auburn tree poisoner indicted
OPELIKA, Ala. -- A grand jury has indicted the man accused of poisoning the oak trees at Auburn's Toomer's Corner, where fans have long celebrated big wins and hundreds gathered after the Tigers won the football national championship on Jan. 10.
Harvey Updyke Jr., 62, was indicted on four felony charges and two misdemeanors by a Lee County grand jury. He faces two felony counts of first-degree criminal mischief, two felony counts for unlawful damage, vandalism or theft of property from a farm animal or crop facility and two misdemeanor counts of desecrating a venerated object, according to court documents.
Updyke is scheduled for arraignment on May 26 before Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob A. Walker III. He has a tentative trial date of June 20.
Updyke's attorney, Glennon Threatt Jr., did not immediately return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
If convicted, Updyke could face up to 10 years in prison for each felony charge and as much as a one-year sentence and $2,000 fine on the misdemeanor.
The century-old trees preside over Toomer's Corner, at the intersection of campus and downtown. One of the traditional celebrations had been to heave toilet paper into the branches.
Updyke said he was attacked by unknown assailants at a gas station shortly after leaving the courthouse following his appearance for a preliminary hearing, which he waived.
Opelika Police Capt. Allan Elkins said Wednesday no suspects have been found or arrested.
"There has been no activity in this case since the report has been made," Elkins said. "There has been no witness to come forward, there has been no evidence collected. The investigators have nothing to work with."
Updyke gave what was tantamount to a confession in the poisoning later that evening on a Birmingham radio show, saying he didn't want his legacy to be as "Harvey the tree poisoner." He also said that "undoubtedly" wasn't one of the good things he has done in his life.
He ended his appearance by saying, "Roll Damn Tide."
"All my life, people have told me I cared too much about Alabama," Updyke said on the show.