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Auburn tree poisoning suspect goes on radio show, explains his actions

Photo by Mike Phillips

Photo by Mike Phillips

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Alabama fan accused of poisoning his rival school's famous trees said on a Birmingham radio show that he is going to get what he deserves and that he just has "too much 'Bama in me."

Harvey Updyke Jr., accused of poisoning the oak trees at Auburn's Toomer's Corner, went on Paul Finebaum's show on Thursday, the same outlet he used in January to confess.

"I just don't want it to be my legacy," Updyke told Finebaum. "I don't want to go to my grave saying, 'Harvey the tree poisoner.' I think in my life I've done a lot of good things, and undoubtedly that wasn't one of them."

Police have said the Updyke, 62, has admitted making the previous call to the radio station, while denying that he was the one who poisoned the century-old trees. The oaks stand on a corner long used for Auburn celebrations.

Updyke appeared in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing. Shortly after leaving, he told police, he was attacked at a gas station. Opelika police said they have no witnesses or suspects.

Updyke said he doesn't blame Auburn fans for being mad at him, but ended his second appearance on the show the same way he did the first, by declaring "Roll Damn Tide." He expressed remorse for what he's done -- to Alabama.

"I have hurt the University of Alabama, I know I have," he said. "And that's the last thing I wanted to do. It started out as a prank and they're talking about putting me in prison for poisoning the water table. It's nowhere near to the end."

He said he feared he'd never be able to attend another Alabama game.

Defense attorney Glennon Threatt Jr. also went on the show and said he expects federal charges to be filed against his client because a representative of the Environmental Protection Agency was in the courtroom Wednesday.

Threatt did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking further comment.

Updyke used a famous Alabama play to talk about his feelings.

"If I was in Auburn's place, I would be upset, too," he said. "I just want to tell them that really and truly I'm not a bad person. I'm an Alabama fan. Tommy Lewis in the '54 Cotton Bowl, he come off the bench and tackled the Rice player that was running down the field 20 yards in front of everybody else. They asked him later, 'Tommy why'd you do it?' He said, 'I just had too much 'Bama in me.' All my life, people have told me I cared too much about Alabama.

"I know they (Auburn fans) don't feel sorry for me. I'm going to get what I deserve, and I guess we'll go from there."

Updyke said he has gone from paying $300 a month to live in a lakeside home owned by a friend to paying $900 monthly rent elsewhere.

He also said his family has been devastated.

"I think everybody is a little more afraid than I am," he said. " I'm not worried about somebody hitting me or hurting me or shooting me or any of that kind of stuff, but everybody else is and it is taking a pretty good toll."

He said he has grandchildren living in Texas and will have to miss birthdays because he can't travel beyond Louisiana.

He also talked about being a former Texas state trooper.

"I have put other police officers in jail. We have to separate them. We don't put them with the general population. I'm not crying. I know some people are going to say, 'Listen at him. You should have thought of that before all this stuff' ... It's going to be pretty rough."

The tone of the appearance was different from the January call. Asked if he worried that poisoning the trees was against the law, Updyke responded: "Do you think I care? I really don't."