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article imageAlabama Crimson Tide fan arrested for poisoning Auburn's oaks

By Kay Mathews     Feb 17, 2011 in Sports
Auburn - Has a 62-year-old become a botanical assassin in the midst of the heated rivalry between Auburn University and the University of Alabama? Two 130-year-old oak trees on the Auburn campus are not expected to survive "lethal dose" of herbicide.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Alabama-Auburn rivalry has reached a “new low.” The 130-year-old oak trees on the Auburn campus have been poisoned and are dying. Some suspect that “Alabama Crimson Tide partisans are to blame.”
“Will ESPN refashion its ‘Never Graduate’ commercials to replace the nursing home partisans with botanical assassins?” asked the SFC. “Or will the network just give up on satirizing the rivalry.”
News of the incident came to light after “someone called into a sports radio show and claimed that he had poisoned the trees because of a long-standing Auburn-Alabama grudge,” reports AOL News.
It was later confirmed that the herbicide called Spike 80DF, or tebuthiuron, was used to poison the trees located at Toomer’s Corner on the AU campus.
The call was made on Jan. 27 to the Birmingham-based The Paul Finebaum Show. According to a press release issued by Auburn University, “As a precaution, soil samples were taken the next day and sent to the Alabama State Pesticide Residue Laboratory on campus for analysis. Due to a small fire that occurred in the Alabama lab in December, the tests were sent to the lab at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss., to expedite results.”
The test results indicated the following:
The lowest amount detected was 0.78 parts per million, described by horticulture experts as a "very lethal dose." The highest amount detected was 51 parts per million, or 65 times the lowest dose. Experts believe a normal application by itself would have been enough to kill the trees, which are estimated to be more than 130 years old.
Auburn University President Jay Gogue was quoted in a Feb. 17 press release as saying, “We delayed announcing the bad news about the trees for a few days to protect the investigation that was in progress."
That investigation led to the Feb. 17 arrest of Harvey A. Updyke Jr., 62, of Dadeville, Ala. The Auburn Police Division arrested Updyke “on a warrant charging him with Criminal Mischief 1st Degree.”
Updyke was taken to the Lee County Detention Center where he is under a $50,000 bond and could face a ten-year prison sentence.
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