Harvey Updyke appearance canceled

ByMark Schlabach ESPN logo
Friday, August 22, 2014

Auburn football fans won't get a shot at Harvey Updyke after all.

The organizers of a Sept. 29 charity event in Mobile, Alabama, have pulled the plug on having Updyke appear for a pie throw or dunking booth.

Organizers originally believed having Updyke there might give Auburn fans a much-wanted opportunity to get even with him, after he infamously poisoned the beloved oak trees at Toomer's Corner near the Auburn campus during the Tigers' 2010 national championship season.

But Updyke's appearance was canceled Thursday after former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's mother, Dee Dee Bonner, and wife Katherine received death threats and other ugly messages on social media. 

"It seems to be taking away from the primary purpose, which is raising awareness for children's cancer," Bonner said. "We don't want to take away from the focus. We needed to get away from it."

The event is to honor John Oliver, a boy from the Mobile area who died from cancer in July. The money raised will benefit Roses From Linda, a nonprofit organization that helps cover transportation costs so family members can visit terminally ill loved ones, as well as children's cancer research.

"I think Mr. Updyke's heart was in the right place with what he wanted to do, but I think too many people are still upset about what he did and haven't gotten over it," Bonner said. "I didn't approve of what he did, but I think he really wanted to help."

Bonner said McCarron wasn't involved in organizing the event but brought Oliver's plight to her attention when the boy was sick and wanted to help. Bonner is helping to organize the event with T.J. Hodges, an Alabama fan and founder of Roses From Linda.

"We want to focus on the real heroes, which are these children fighting for their lives and their families," Bonner said.

Updyke, a former Texas state trooper, was arrested in February 2011 after a man calling himself "Al from Dadeville" phoned Paul Finebaum's radio show and boasted of pouring herbicide around the 130-year-old oak trees following Auburn's win over rival Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl. The caller signed off Finebaum's radio show by saying, "Roll Damn Tide."

Updyke pleaded guilty in March 2013 to one count of unlawful damage of an animal or crop facility. He was sentenced to six months in jail and served 76 days after being credited for 104 days of time already served.

Updyke, who now lives in Albany, Louisiana, also was sentenced to five years of probation and banned from attending any college sporting event for the rest of his life. In addition, he is prohibited from stepping foot on the Auburn campus again. A judge ordered Updyke to pay nearly $800,000 in restitution to Auburn University.

Bonner said she hopes fans of Auburn and Alabama will come together to help the cause.

"Cancer doesn't care what team you root for," she said.

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