Michael Vilkin (right) and defense attorney Richard Berkon
“Mr. Vilkin protected himself,” said attorney Richard Berkon, speaking for a man accused of killing his neighbor. “This case was justified. It was self-defense.”
Trial began yesterday, June 5, for an Encinitas man charged with murder in the shooting death of a person with whom he had a yearlong dispute over the removal of shrubbery on a vacant lot.
Land owned by Vilkin
Berkon claimed Michael Vilkin, 63, had suffered bullying and intimidation and threats while he worked to clear the brush on two undeveloped acres he bought at 2902 Lone Jack Road.
John Charles Upton, 56, a man who rented a home on an adjoining property, repeatedly confronted Vilkin, Berkon claimed. “He can’t set foot on his land without something coming from Mr. Upton.”
Upton demanded to know why Vilkin was “ruining the view” and removing trees that provided privacy from other neighbors, the defense attorney said in opening statements.
Upton, described in an autopsy report as 6 feet 2 inches tall and 236 pounds, was “cursing [and] getting nose-to-nose with Mr. Vilkin,” who is 5 feet 5 inches tall and 165 pounds, the defense attorney claimed.
Vilkin, who immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union in the 1980s, had phoned the sheriff’s department asking for help multiple times, his attorney claimed. The week before the shooting, Vilkin called for help and the deputy who responded witnessed Upton “screaming and yelling and cursing” and trying to “get in the face” of Vilkin, according to the defense attorney.
March 28, 2013, was the last meeting of the two men. Vilkin shot Upton twice, first in the belly and then one shot to the forehead, with a .44 caliber revolver that Vilkin had brought with him to the property. “Mr. Vilkin fired in self defense. He was justified in shooting Mr. Upton that day,” Berkon told the jury.
Trial resumes Monday morning, June 9, in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse.