Toomer's Corner Tree Poisoning Arrest Made

Toomer's Corner Tree Poisoning Arrest Made
Toomer's Oaks, site of hundreds of Auburn victory celebrations, may not survive the year

(CBS/AP/WRBL) Police say they have arrested Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr for the poisoning of the 130-year-old Toomer's Oaks, the landmark gathering place of Auburn University victory celebrations. 

The 62-year-old has been charged with one count of first-degree criminal mischief.

Bond was set at $50,000. If convicted, Updyke could face one to 10 years in prison.

University officials reported on Wednesday that the trees had been given "lethal amounts" of herbicide.

CBS affiliate WRBL reports that the story started with a phone call. On Jan. 27, a caller to "The Paul Finebaum Show," a sports talk radio show out of Birmingham, claimed he poisoned the live oaks shortly after the Iron Bowl with an herbicide known as Spike 80DF.

"The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Ala. - I live 30 miles away - and I poisoned the two Toomer's trees," the caller said on the show. "I put Spike 80DF in them." Show host Finebaum then asked the caller if the trees had died, to which "Al in Dadeville" responded, "They have not died yet, but they will die."

Updyke is from Dadeville, say police.

Students and residents of the Auburn community gathered around the ancient Oaks Wednesday afternoon. "I just don't understand why somebody would destroy something that is that key to the university," Kevin Johnson, an industrial engineering senior, told CBS affiliate WRBL. "It's just crazy that somebody would choose to do that to Auburn."

Auburn officials have sworn to do everything possible to save the ancient trees. "We will take every step we can to save the Toomer's oaks, which have been the home of countless celebrations and a symbol of the Auburn spirit for generations of Auburn students, fans, alumni and the community," university President Jay Gogue said in a statement.