College reporter says accused tree-poisoner confessed

Andrew Yawn, a reporter for the Auburn University Plainsman, approached accused oak tree-poisoner Harvey Updyke during a court break on Tuesday to inquire about his health. During their conversation, Updyke allegedly said: “Did I do it? Yes.”

Harvey Updyke

Evan Woodbury writes on

After the confession, Yawn said Updyke asked him not to use that quote. Updyke’s wife Elva said, “Of course, he’s going to use it. He’s been taking notes,” according to Yawn.

Yawn said he faced a “moral quandary” about using the quotes as he had originally planned to write a sympathetic feature about the Updykes later in the week. But after talking to his journalism advisers he decided to post the story.

Updyke’s lawyer claims there was no confession. He tells WLTZ-TV:

There were other reporters around from ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX,, AP, major, major media outlets, and all of you were swarming in the courtroom, the lawyers were around the courtroom, and we think it’s kind of odd that a student reporter from Auburn University was able to get this story when all these major media outlets have been here the entire time. No one saw this reporter getting this information from Updyke.

Plainsman editor Robert Lee says he stands behind his reporter’s Updyke confession “100 percent” and that “the information gathered was not prompted nor off the record.”

* Auburn student newspaper says Updyke confessed to reporter (
* Updyke confesses to Plainsman: “Did I do it? Yes” (The Plainsman)
* Lawyer denies newspaper’s claim of a confession (USA Today)
* Plainsman editor stands by reporter who claims suspect confessed (The Plainsman)