It didn’t happen on a stand, in a courthouse, before a judge or in front of a jury of his peers: Harvey Updyke admitted his guilt before the trial even began.
He had the ability to decline comment, to wait until the trial, to not say anything at all, and yet the same candor that broke his story on The Paul Finebaum Show in January 2011 revealed itself again on Tuesday, June 19.
“Did I do it? Yes,” Updyke said outside of an elevator on the second floor of the Lee County Justice Center in Opelika.
Updyke pleaded innocent to several counts of desecration of a venerated object, first-degree criminal mischief and unlawful damage or vandalism of a crop facility after he allegedly poisoned the Toomer’s Oaks with Spike 80DF, a powerful herbicide, after the 2010 Iron Bowl.
Updyke appeared to have some difficulty breathing while attending the jury selection for his upcoming trial and while Judge Jacob Walker read the charges filed against him aloud.
Updyke acknowledged the trial was already sapping his fading strength when approached about his health concerns.
“I thought I was going to pass out all morning,” Updyke said.
His wife, Elva Updyke, said she had doubts about how he would fare throughout the trial.
“I guarantee he won’t last the trial without something happening,” Elva said.
Updyke said he has lost 62 pounds since his arrest and is currently taking 18 different medications for a variety of ailments.
But Updyke didn’t stop there.
As he and his wife stood by the window on the second floor of the Justice Center, a seemingly remorseful Updyke opened up about the crime that fanned the flames of one of the most heated rivalries in sports history.
Before his trial began and before his jury was even selected, Updyke convicted himself by admitting to poisoning one of Auburn’s most iconic landmarks.
Updyke also said his lawyer, Everett Wess, would probably drop him if he found out he was speaking about the case.
Why he decided to admit his guilt may remain unknown. However, Updyke had seemingly already resigned himself his fate.
“They’re going to find me guilty… it’s a done deal,” Updyke said. “I don’t think I’m going to get a fair trial.”
Elva also said Judge Walker refused to excuse a juror during the questioning of potential jurors Tuesday morning after she said she “probably couldn’t” remain impartial.
In addition, when asked if they had heard or read about Updyke’s alleged crimes, almost all of the candidates raised their hands, with approximately seven of the 85 being employed by Auburn University.
Updyke also said he was not alone in poisoning the oaks. However, he declined to reveal his accomplice’s name.
“There’s a lot of stuff that’s not going to come out,” he said.
For Updyke, the blame and the guilt are solely his to bear.
“Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and just wish that you hadn’t done something?” Updyke said.
Despite his contrition, the attempted killing of the approximately 131-year-old trees attacked the roots of one of Auburn’s oldest traditions.
And yet, Updyke did not come out unscathed.
Like the trees, the damage for Updyke is already done.
“It’s ruined my life,” Updyke said. “I’ve got a daughter that won’t even talk to me now.”
As for the oaks, uncertainties abound as the trees’ ability to recover remains unknown.
While Auburn’s citizens hope to see new foliage sprout soon from the historic branches, Updyke may now be the trees’ most ardent supporter.
“I hope they live,” Updyke said.