Man who shot neighbor denied new trial, sentenced to 64 years in - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Man who shot neighbor denied new trial, sentenced to 64 years in prison

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Michael Vilkin Michael Vilkin
John Upton John Upton

VISTA (CNS) - An Encinitas man who killed a neighbor with whom he'd been feuding over the cutting of bushes and trees on the defendant's vacant lot was sentenced Wednesday to 64 years to life behind bars.

Michael Vilkin, 63, was convicted last June of first-degree murder in the death of 56-year-old John Upton.

"Mr. Vilkin, you did something that can't be undone," Judge Robert Kearney told the defendant after denying his bid for a new trial.

Upton was a documentary filmmaker who gained fame for his crusade to rescue Romanian orphans living in deplorable conditions during the communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu.

Vilkin, a former economist from the Soviet Union, testified that he shot Upton in self-defense.

Deputy District Attorney David Uyar told jurors that on the day of the shooting -- March 28, 2013 -- Vilkin showed up with two workers to cut bushes and shrubbery on his property adjacent to Upton's rental home.

When Upton walked up an easement and approached Vilkin, the defendant "calmly and coolly" shot the victim in the abdomen from close range and then fired again, hitting him in the head, according to the prosecutor.

Defense attorney Richard Berkon told the jury that the shooting was "justified." Berkon said Upton had been bullying, intimidating and cursing at Vilkin for months because he didn't like the defendant clearing trees and ruining the view.

Vilkin shot Upton because he thought he saw a gun in the victim's hand as he approached, Berkon said.

A cell phone was located near Upton's body.

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