"Mobituaries": The Auburn University tree killer speaks

"Mobituaries: Death of a Tree, Roots of a Rivalry"

Since it debuted in January, Mo Rocca's podcast "Mobituaries" has shed light on the lives of both famous and forgotten figures who have passed, from stars like Audrey Hepburn and Sammy Davis Jr., to the man who fame and recording career died with the Kennedy assassination. But for the first time, Rocca has turned his attention to … a dead tree.

Actually, two famed trees, the 80-year-old Toomer's Oaks that graced the campus of Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. In 2010, they were poisoned, in a case that shocked the sports world when the culprit was discovered to be a die-hard Crimson Tide fan from Auburn's rival, the University of Alabama.

The "rolling" of the Toomer's Oaks – draping them with toilet paper – after Auburn victories has long been considered one of the top traditions in college sports. But this case of arborcide was, according to ESPN Radio's Paul Finebaum, "one of the ugliest college-football-related crimes that have ever been reported."

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Crews from the Asplundh tree service inspect an oak tree after it was cut down on April 23, 2013 at Toomer's Corner in Auburn, Alabama. Auburn University decided to remove the dying oaks after they were poisoned by a rival fan shortly after the 2010 Iron Bowl, in which Auburn beat the Crimson Tide 28–27. Michael Chang/Getty Images

And the culprit might have gotten away with it, until he called into Finebaum's radio show and – while calling himself "Al from Dadeville" – admitted to doing the deed. Police were able to trace the call and identified him as Harvey Updyke, Jr.

Updyke served six months in jail, and received five years' probation, for poisoning the two trees, and was ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution.

In his first in-depth interview since the end of his probation, the tree killer opened up to Rocca about why he did it: "I wanted Auburn people to hate me as much as I hate them," Updyke said. "I just don't like Auburn. You know, there are several things in this world that I really and truly don't like, and Auburn is one of them."

Little surprise that he was banned from Auburn's campus for life.

As heard in the latest episode of "Mobituaries," titled "Death of a Tree: Roots of a Rivalry," Updyke explains how he planned the act, using a specialty pesticide called Spike 80DF, pouring 500 times the lethal amount around the trees.

You can download the episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Megaphone, Stitcher, or Spotify

      
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