Auburn police have arrested Harvey Almorn Updyke of Dadeville, Ala., in connection with the Toomer's Corner oak tree poisonings.
The 62-year-old Updyke has been charged with one Class C felony count of criminal mischief and faces one to 10 years in prison if convicted.
He made an initial appearance in court this morning to hear the charges. He is being held on $50,000 bond, Auburn police chief Tommy Dawson said at a morning press conference in front of Samford Hall. As of this morning, he was still incarcerated.
With help from the FBI, U.S. Marshalls, State of Alabama Department of Agricultural Industries and Tallapoosa County Sheriff's office, the Auburn police arrested Updyke at 1:26 a.m. Thursday morning, only hours after releasing information that the iconic Toomer's Corner oak trees are likely to die after being poisoned with the herbicide Spike 80DF.
Updyke was arrested at the Auburn police department, although Dawson would not say what led the police to the suspect or whether or not he turned himself in.
"This is a person who obviously has problems to do something like this," Dawson said. "We want to use caution and let the justice system take its course."
Dawson said the police received information that the trees were poisoned last month, prompting an investigation.
A caller on The Paul Finebaum Radio Show named "Al from Dadeville" bragged on Jan. 27 that he used Spike 80DF to poison the trees, which are rolled with toilet paper following football victories. He claimed to be an Alabama fan who did it in response to Auburn fans placing a jersey of Tigers quarterback Cam Newton on a statue of former Crimson Tide coach Paul "Bear" Bryant after the Iron Bowl.
Dawson did not confirm whether Updyke was the caller.
He said police are still investigating but do not anticipate any other arrests.
"I do believe he acted alone," Dawson said.
Auburn horticulture experts Gary Keever and Stephen Enloe do not know how long the trees will live.
"I always want to hold out hope," said Enloe, who choked up. "Based upon the technical experts I have consulted with around the country, the concentration of Spike found within the soil would suggest there's a very low probability."
Enloe said the herbicide, which is used primarily to protect pasture fences from being overgrown, has moved into the soil around the area. He said the herbicide is likely to be in the soil for three to five years and can inhibit growth for up to seven years.
Keever said Auburn has never used Spike 80DF and the the amounts found around the Toomer's trees could not have been an accident.