The Two-Way
3:48 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Man Accused Of Poisoning Toomer's Corner Oaks Apologizes To Auburn

It was a sports rivalry gone too far: You may remember that in February of this year, Auburn University football fans received some heady news.

Their beloved 130-year-old oak trees, which for years fans toilet papered to celebrate sports victories, had been poisoned with a herbicide that would kill them slowly. Spike 80DF disrupts a tree's photosynthesis process and in a painstaking process, it produces fewer leaves in each shoot until the entire tree is dead.

The school found out the trees — known as the Toomer's Corner Oaks — were poisoned after an Alabama fan called a sports radio show to say he had settled his score with Auburn fans by attacking the trees.

Harvey Updyke Jr. was charged with the offense and he called the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, yesterday, to apologize. It was a heartfelt call in which he sounded like he was on the verge of tears. Updyke, who is awaiting trial, did not admit to poisoning the trees, but said he was sorry. ESPN has the details:

"I'm extremely sorry for what I have been accused of doing," Updyke said.

Updyke, who has health problems, said he has been told to draft a living will and "get right with God."

"I just want to tell the Auburn people that I'm truly sorry for all the damage I've done," he said in the call. "I'm not asking for sympathy. All I'm asking is forgiveness. I want the people that's Christians to understand I've done a lot of good in my life. I've never intentionally hurt anybody ... until this."

When Finebaum asked if "this" was poisoning trees, Updyke said, "Paul, you know I can't say that."

Updyke said he was sorry for "all the hate" and "all the hurt" he caused. He said he had heart problems and that the incident had cost him "childhood friends" and "family members."

"Nobody wants me around," said Updyke. "I could give you a lot of reasons for why that happened. All I can do and it is from my heart... all I can say is that I'm sorry. I can't undo it."

Earlier this week, Auburn University said the health of the oak trees was steadily declining. They're covered in a fraction of the foliage they should have this time of year and the leaves that do sprout quickly turn brown and die.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.