Deputies within the San Diego Sheriff’s Department have confirmed they’ve made an arrest in the fatal shooting of an Encinitas man. Defendant Michael Vilken has been detained at the San Diego Central Jail and he is being charged with murder. Homicide detectives have said the murder weapon has been recovered.
The victim was reportedly shot in the head over a land dispute.
The 61 year-old defendant is believed to have gunned down his documentary filmmaker neighbor due to a long standing argument over trees and other shrubbery in an area between their homes. Victim John Upton is best known for his documentary films about Romanian orphans who are living in poverty due to the nation’s communist dictatorship. San Diego Sheriff’s Department deputies say he died at the scene.
The incident unfolded last week at time when the defendant hired brush removal crews to do work on the edge of his property. The victim is believed to have approached the workers to ask whether his car needed to be moved. It was at that time that Vilken exited his home with a loaded shotgun. Authorities say he fired two shots, hitting the victim in his head and stomach.
The victim’s girlfriend ran out of their home and toward Upton. As she approached his body the defendant pointed his gun toward her head. She turned around, ran back inside and called 9-1-1.
Vilken’s bail has been set at $5 million. He faces a sentence of 25 years to life if convicted. He continues to maintain he fired in self defense. The matter is ongoing.