Archived Story

Updyke pleads guilty

Published 11:47am Saturday, March 23, 2013

By David Goodwin, Staff Writer

Auburn tree-poisoning suspect Harvey Updyke Jr. dodged the judgment of Elmore County residents Friday when he changed his plea to guilty.

Updyke, who was scheduled to stand trial in Elmore County starting April 8, pleaded guilty Friday to criminal damage to an agricultural facility, a Class C felony for which he was sentenced to three years.

He will be required to serve at least six months of that sentence, according to Auburn District Attorney Robbie Trees. Upon his release, he faces five years of supervised probation.

He will be banned from all collegiate sporting events and prohibited from setting foot on any property owned by Auburn University. He’ll also be subject to a 7 p.m. curfew throughout his probation.

Updyke’s fate would have been decided by an Elmore County jury, after Circuit Judge Jacob Walker III granted a change of venue for the high-profile case. Updyke had pleaded not guilty by reason of mental defect.

He was indicted in 2011 for using a powerful herbicide to poison the iconic oak trees. On April 20, Auburn fans plan to festoon the barren trees with toilet paper one final time after the A-Day football scrimmage. They’ll then be removed the following week.

Goodwin is political editor for The Wetumpka Herald.