AUBURN, Ala. -- Harvey Updyke, the man police say poisoned Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner oak trees, was released from Lee County Detention Center Friday night after posting bond.
The 62-year-old Updyke, from Dadeville, Ala., was arrested early Thursday morning in connection with the historic trees’ poisoning and charged with one count of criminal mischief, a Class C felony. Bail was set at $50,000, although a local bail bondsman only had to produce a fraction of that for Updyke’s release.
Updyke, who could face one to 10 years in prison if convicted, was released around 8:30 p.m. ET.
He also received a new attorney Friday. Lee County District Court Judge Russell K. Bush appointed Jerry W. Hauser to represent Updyke, whose original court-appointed lawyer, Philip O. Tyler, asked to be removed from the case, citing a conflict of interest.
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Tyler is a former part-time professor at Auburn and has represented the university in the past. He also has lived in the city since 1988 and, according to documents filed in court, has “numerous personal and family ties to Auburn.” Representatives from both schools attempted to tone down the rivalry, urging mutual respect from their fan bases. Auburn football coach Gene Chizik and Alabama’s Nick Saban released a joint statement.
“This is an isolated incident by one individual that is not representative of what the greatest rivalry in college football is all about,” it read. “The players and coaches at both schools have a tremendous amount of respect for each other on and off the field, and we encourage our fans to show that same amount of respect now and in the future. We will move beyond this regrettable incident and continue to enjoy this great rivalry.”
Kurt Sasser and James Fowler, Auburn and Alabama’s respective student presidents, issued a joint statement Friday urging students to act “in a manner that represents the mission and values of our institutions.”
Auburn University moved forward in mapping out a plan to save the Toomer’s Corner oaks and is asking fans not to roll the trees.
A task force has been formed that is designed to save the famed trees. It includes experts in horticulture, agronomy, civil engineering, forestry, chemistry and landscape services.
It asked fans not to walk in the trees’ bedding area, which could further damage the trees. Workers have put up a fence around the bedding area and added a tarp to keep rainwater from going into the roots.
A release by the school said soil removal begins early next week, with soil samples being taken to determine the concentration of herbicide at different depths.
Civil engineers will also install small cylinders to monitor the downward spread of the herbicide Spike 80DF.
Further actions will be based on the results of the initial steps.
Meanwhile, Auburn fans began organizing a rally to support the trees. A Facebook page titled “Toomer’s Tree Hug” is touting an event from 1-4 p.m. ET today for fans to show support for the trees, which are traditionally rolled with toilet paper following football victories.
As of Friday evening, nearly 8,000 people had responded to say they would attend.
The rally, which is not sponsored by the university, is not a literal tree hug. School horticultural experts have said the less people stomping around the base of the frail trees, the better.
Instead, the site said, “the hugs should be reserved for other members of the Auburn Family who need a shoulder in this painful time.”