Neighbor Claims Self Defense In Fatal Shooting Over Shrubbery

Michael Vilkin claimed self defense for fatally shooting his neighbor in an argument over shrubbery. INSIDE EDITION explains.

A man blew away his next door neighbor in an argument over shrubbery. Michael Vilkin told a jury that he killed his neighbor, documentary film maker John Upton, in self defense.

Vilkin said, “I saw a pistol in his right hand. It was like one second. And then I pulled out my revolver and shot him."

The 61-year-old Vilkin owned a vacant lot in Encinitas, California. Violence erupted after Vilkin trimmed some bushes on his property. When Upton stormed out of his house, Vilkin shot him twice from 10-feet away with a .44 magnum. Upton turned out to be unarmed.

Vilkin, who was born in Russia, talked about the showdown in a jailhouse interview last year, saying, "He came to me, threatening and pulled the gun on me."

The dead man's brother, Michael Upton, showed INSIDE EDITION the bushes Vilkin had been chopping down shortly before the deadly confrontation.

He said, "This is the spot where my brother fell and it's probably 30 feet from his front door."
John Upton was once hailed an American hero for rescuing scores of children from the infamous Romanian orphanages. His crusade was featured in a 20/20 report in 1993.

His brother doesn't believe Vilkin's claim of self defense and hopes the jury won't buy it either, saying, "He's a coward and a cold-blooded killer."

Vilkin faces 35 years-to-life in prison if convicted.