Michael Vilkin worried that the .22 caliber pistol he bought wasn’t big enough to “stop a big guy.”
So he bought himself a .44.
  • Michael Vilkin worried that the .22 caliber pistol he bought wasn’t big enough to “stop a big guy.” So he bought himself a .44.
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"How come he did not fall immediate?” shooter Michael Vilkin reportedly asked deputies. He wanted to know why his neighbor did not drop after the first large-caliber bullet hit him.

According to an investigator, Vilkin, who stands accused of killing his neighbor with two shots from his .44 caliber revolver, spoke freely with officers the same day as the shooting, March 28, 2013.

It was Vilkin who dialed 911 to report that he had fired upon his neighbor twice. “Vilkin told the dispatcher that his neighbor (later identified as John Upton) had assaulted him, and Vilkin shot Upton with his gun,” wrote district attorney investigator Trudianne Bullard in her statement dated April 13, 2013.

On a Thursday morning at about 9 a.m., San Diego County sheriff’s deputies responded to 2902 Lone Jack Road in Encinitas and found a man lying on the ground. John Charles Upton, Jr., 56, was declared “deceased at the scene” by a paramedic.

A dispute with a neighbor over trimming bushes along the easement to Vilkin’s vacant Encinitas property precipitated the shooting.

Vilkin, 61, claimed “the guy was bullying me all the time.... He continued to walk through my property, he never missed an opportunity to, you know, not every day, but time-to-time to, you know, how to say it, to verbally assault me.”

Vilkin said he had come to cut bushes on a path that led to his two-and-a-half acre property on Lone Jack Road. But Upton, who lived with his girlfriend and her son in rented a home on an adjacent property, resisted Vilkin’s trimming efforts.

“He wanted my road to serve as his private garden,” Vilkin told authorities. “I decided to go there and cut the trees and to show who’s the boss.”

The man from the Soviet Union
Vilkin is five-feet-five-inches tall and 165 pounds, according to sheriff’s records. John Charles Upton was six-feet-two-inches tall and 236 pounds at the time of his death.

Vilkin told deputies he came to the U.S. in 1987 from the Soviet Union, where he served in the Soviet Army and did some boxing, too. In 2008 he bought the empty lot in Encinitas. At the time of the fatal confrontation, Vilkin and his wife Tamara lived in an apartment in Encinitas about three miles away.

Deputies recorded an interview with Vilkin the same day as the shooting. “In a sheriff’s interview Vilkin said it had been over forty years since he had been in the (Soviet) military and he might not be able to hit the head on the first time,” Bullard reported.

Vilkin reportedly told officers that he went on the internet to research his gun options.

A more powerful gun
A .22 caliber pistol was purchased by Vilkin on August 17, 2012, according to investigators. It was a Euro American Armory pistol. But Vilkin decided that a .22 caliber would not “stop a big guy” and that “he needed a more powerful gun,” according to the investigator’s statement.

“Vilkin searched the internet and read reviews because he was not sure if he should buy a pistol or a revolver,” the investigator stated. “Vilkin said some people said that pistols sometimes jam so he decided to buy a revolver. Vilkin said he bought the simple one with the single action.”

Three months after he bought the .22 caliber pistol, on November 23, 2012, Vilkin acquired a Sturm Ruger .44 caliber revolver. And Vilkin bought the larger magnum ammunition.

After the shooting, Vilkin reportedly asked deputies, “It says bear and .44 magnum and something else, so it’s for a bear, how come he did not, he did not fall immediate? Did he have a vest?”

A black .44 caliber Sturm Ruger revolver was recovered at the scene of the shooting.

Hiding in the bushes with a .44
“Vilkin told the detectives he had been verbally assaulted by Upton over the course of the last year because Vilkin wanted to cut trees and bushes on the easement portion of his property and Upton was concerned about his privacy,” according to investigator Bullard.

“Vilkin hired two workers to cut the bushes and while they were working, Vilkin was ‘hiding’ on his property so he could see the workers and Upton’s front door. When Vilkin saw Upton looking out the front door Vilkin took the revolver out of the case and put it in his waist band. Vilkin said, ‘He came out and he went around and started walking to me. When he was about ten feet he told me you know, I don’t remember those expletives, I was under stress, but it was fucking fucking fucking when he was approaching. I watching his hands. He pulled a pistol, and I pulled [my gun.] I shot the way I was trained in the army.’

“Vilkin believed he shot Upton once in the lower torso and then again in the head in self defense,” Bullard wrote.

“Vilkin claimed Upton pulled a gun out of his waistband during the verbal confrontation.” But investigators found “Upton only had a cell phone on his person,” Bullard wrote.

Upton’s girlfriend, Evelyn Zeller, was in the rented home and came outside when she heard shots. She told investigators that when she approached her boyfriend lying on the ground, Vilkin pointed a gun at her and warned her not to come any closer.

Vilkin is charged with premeditated murder of Upton and assault with a deadly weapon on Zeller. Vilkin pleaded not guilty through his public defender. He is next due in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse on August 26.

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Comments

Eva Knott July 10, 2013 @ 8:51 a.m.

Prosecutor David Uyar said that Michael Vilkin pointed the handgun at the victim's girlfriend, who came out to investigate the gunshot noises. The deputy district attorney spoke to news media after Michael Vilkin's arraignment four months ago.

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SurfPuppy619 July 10, 2013 @ 9:13 a.m.

Vilkin is an idiot and in many ways reminds me of the Zimmerman case, an idiot arms himself with a deadly weapon and then goes out looking for trouble, and when they find it, legitimate or not, initiate/start a confrontation with deadly results. He needs to go to prison, maybe manslaughter instead of 1st degree murder, but the fact is if he thought the cell phone was a gun it would negate the 1st degree murder charge down to manslaughter/3rd degree,

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Visduh July 10, 2013 @ 10:28 a.m.

Whoa, SurfPup, the defendant is the only person who can claim that he "thought" the cellphone was a gun. (Cops do that all the time when they shoot unarmed citizens, but that works only for them.) And where was the cellphone? Probably in the vic's pocket. No, this was murder for sure. And there's the second shot. He was trying to take the guy out for sure, and did just that. He was looking for some sort of vengeance and got it. Now, if the DA does her job (and we can never be sure of that) he'll spend the rest of his days in a prison cell. Yes, he's an idiot.

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SurfPuppy619 July 10, 2013 @ 10:33 a.m.

Whoa, SurfPup, the defendant is the only person who can claim that he "thought" the cellphone was a gun. (Cops do that all the time when they shoot unarmed citizens, but that works only for them.)

LOL.... I was going to make the same comment about the cops "He reached for his waistband"!!!!! Is it murder-yes, I think so, manslaughter, though. But he does have a right to raise the self defense issue to the jury....The question is did the guy reasonably believe the other guy had a gun or weapon, questions of fact for the jury to decide. It does not absolve him of guilt but 3rd degree and 1st degree are very different, especially punishment.

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Visduh July 10, 2013 @ 9:31 p.m.

There are other features to this tale that were not mentioned. Early reports said that the laborers the def had hired to do the cutting bugged out as soon as the foul deed went down. As in, he didn't know their names, very probably picked them up at the local hiring hall out in front of the Encinitas Home Depot, and had only a vague description. I've seen nothing since then to indicate that anyone has contacted those two eye wittnesses. And why did they bug out? They were (PC term) undocumented laborers, wanted nothing to do with policia, migra, or anyone who would do anything other than pay them $75 or thereabouts a day for work. Those guys could support or utterly deflate the claim of self-defense. As it stands now, there are two witnesses, the girlfriend and the def. He has little or no credibility. Another facet is his actions after the shooting. His comments to the cops, his alleged threat to the woman, and his calloused treatment of the whole thing carry a lot of weight in trials, and his actions were not those of a person who reluctantly took a life in defense of his own. Sure, he can mount any sort of defense he would like, but a jury can easily dismiss it all.

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TheInnocentMandotcom July 13, 2013 @ 2:04 p.m.

He told the interrogating deputies he wanted to go and "show who's boss" - AFTER shooting the victim a SECOND time in the head? After he admits upgrading to a .44 (which used to be the largest handgun in the US before the Desert Eagle .50). That second shot MAY show premeditation. The first shot MAY have been reasonable in his mind but the second shot was likely an intent to kill. And his comments about "stopping a big guy" sound like he was describing the victim himself. Did the defendants counsel at least attempt to file a motion to suppress his recorded statement? Has the public defenders office used investigators to find the other "witnesses" allegedly hired at Home Depot that day? There may be videotape of Villikin picking them up or going through a drive through with them for breakfast or something? I've been in that position myself. Fortunately I didn't shoot the guy (who kept coming after I asked him to stop).

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Visduh July 15, 2013 @ 2:14 p.m.

Some additional reflection on this case makes me think that the DA could go for something more serious than "simple" first degree murder. The def admitted to the cops that he ". . . was ‘hiding’ on his property so he could see the workers and Upton’s front door." That could be seen to constitute murder by lying in wait, one of the two dozen or so "special circumstances" that qualify a conviction for the death penalty or life without parole. It will be most interesting to see if the DA pursues that angle.

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rmadden July 16, 2013 @ 11:17 p.m.

Rumor has it they found the hired laborers. As for the cell phone/ gun comments, the defendant just saying he thought it was a gun doesn't make it just manslaughter or 3rd degree. It has to pass the smell test. The guy was in hiding waiting for Upton to come out of the house and pulled the gun out immediately. How in the world did he think his life was in danger where there is zero evidence Upton ever threatened him bodily harm or even had a gun. Vilkin says he was harassed many times but in exactly ZERO of those times did he say Upton was violent in any way or had a gun.

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SurfPuppy619 July 16, 2013 @ 11:53 p.m.

All your points are questions of fact, for a jury to decide, I think it is a good case for manslaughter, and maybe more, who knows until all the evidence is in.

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lonejackroad Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:22 p.m.

My question for Mr. Vilkin is simply this: was it worth it? Mr. Vilkin has sat like a caged animal in a cell since March 28th. From the moment he pulled the trigger (the first time) his life has changed forever, seemingly for the worse. Within moments he was in police custody, and since being taken to jai later that day, has been in a jail cell. He has missed out on the months of April through now August, all of summer, all but a couple of weeks of spring, and for what? Trimming trees or bushes. Now those trees and bushes are growing unabated, and whether they need trimming or not, Mr. Vilkin is not there to do anything about it. And there is a good chance he will never be able to step onto that property to cut his trees or bushes ever again. Plus, at a minimum, his actions have exposed him to the risk of being convicted of murder, of permanently losing his freedom, and risking all his assets, including this piece of property he apparently treasured. He has been vilified to the point where even if he should ever walk free, beat the rap, or whatever, he will have this black cloud of embarrassment hanging over his head wherever he goes. Vilkin had so many other choices that day, and he chose the worst possible choice. He has to be thinking by now, as he has wasted away so many months in a hole, with the awareness that this may very well be how he spends the rest of his life, that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to bring that gun to the tree trimming party and pull the trigger on an unarmed man. Also, I don't like the way he tries to blame the victim, who has apparently never been able to defend himself in this unprovoked attack--not the day the victim lost his life, nor even afterwards, as Vilkin tries to make the victim the predator. The victim was not able to defend himself against Vilkin's gun that day, nor is he alive to be able to defend these obviously bogus claims of self defense. I see a pattern there, and it is one where Vilkin is the predator bully, and a coward too.

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Eva Knott Sept. 24, 2013 @ 4:20 a.m.

Update: at the conclusion of a hearing September 23, 2013, the judge found sufficient evidence to order Vilkin to stand trial on both charges, murder and assault. Honorable Judge Sim von Kalinowski heard testimony from the two hired workers whom Vilkin had brought with him to the property that morning, last March. The workers both said they heard Vilkin arguing with shooting victim John Upton, and they suggested it was Vilkin who was loud and cursing. The judge commented, "The argument was one-sided..."

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n15068 Sept. 25, 2013 @ 12:16 p.m.

I am the victims brother.

At the preliminary hearing two eye witnesses testified that on the day of the murder my brother was "calm" and never confronted his murderer.In fact, they stated that it was the murder that was shouting obscenities at my brother. Furthermore they stated that my brother was at least 10' feet away from the murderer and after the murderer pulled his weapon my brother stated "are you kidding me." Then the murderer shot him in the abdomen...my brother screamed in pain then 5 -7 seconds later the murder shot him in the head. The murderer was a blogger back in 2007 if you google: "michael vilkin cockroach " you can see his homicidal rants about killing mexicans like cockroaches etc. His wife Tamara knew about this and probably knew that her murder husban was going to vonfront and kill my brother. She has promoted the defense theory that there was this big "dispute" and angry confrontation...all false...all part of a premeditated killing and subsequent defense strategy.I almost felt sorry for her when the detective testified that her murder husband actually had condoms in his pistol case when they took it into possession. She is at least 60 years old. I realize that its much more "juicy" of a story to make this into a blood feud...but the reality is that Michael Vilkin is a psychotic killer who lied in wait for my brother and like the coward he is shot an unarmed man. My brother was a good man...killed by an evil little man..who now is amongst other evil people locked up in a cage. I look forward to the day that he gets sentenced to life in prison where he will have evil things done to him until he dies and his miserable soul goes to hell.

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lonejackroad Feb. 23, 2014 @ 8:59 a.m.

I am so sorry for your loss. It is a senseless tragedy Why is the cockroach still caged in Vista and not in a state prison? Why has the trial taken so long to start? It has been almost a year in an open and shut case. Cockroach needs to be sent off to his permanent home. Justice will be served there, but delay is no justice and just adds to the senselessness of it all for the family.

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rmadden Sept. 25, 2013 @ 4:30 p.m.

I agree with virtually everything n15068 says. I do not agree that the wife probably knew Vilkin was going to kill John Upton as there is no evidence of that. The reason she promotes the defense theory is because this is her husband and I would think most spouses would defend the other spouse. However, deep down I believe she knows John didn't have a gun and whatever happened didn't require deadly force. It should be noted that there is talk that there was past contention between the two (just verbal) but by all accounts John Upton was calm and not an aggressor in any way the day of the shooting. As for the blogging, that is also true...there are MANY questionable statements Vilkin made when blogging including some were worse than the one referenced. The condom statement was definitely interesting and I am sure made the wife think about what they were doing in the case. I don't believe Vilkin will ever see freedom again.

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