Well-known filmmaker identified as Encinitas homicide victim

Well-known filmmaker identified as Encinitas homicide victim
A volunteer sheriff’s deputy makes way for the medical examiner on Lone Jack Road, near the scene of a fatal shooting. Photo by Jared Whitlock

ENCINITAS — The victim of a fatal shooting in Olivenhain has been identified as 56-year-old John C. Upton, according to sheriff’s officials. 


Upton was a filmmaker who worked to shed light on orphans kept in poor conditions in Romania.

Shortly after 9 a.m. on Thursday, deputies from the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station responded to a call of assault with a deadly weapon in the 2900 block of Lone Jack Road. They found Upton on a dirt path between two homes with a gunshot wound to the head.

Later that morning, homicide detectives arrested Michael Vilkin, 61, on suspicion of murder. He was booked into Central Jail.

Preliminary information indicates a possible dispute between Upton and Vilkin led to the shooting, according to sheriff’s officials. No other people were injured during the incident. Investigators believe there are no outstanding suspects.

At the scene on Thursday, volunteer sheriff’s deputies blocked off the surrounding area with caution tape. Several residents waited on the perimeter, unable to access their homes.

One of those residents was David Gafen, who said he didn’t know Upton very well. But he noted that Upton rented a home on Lone Jack.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Homicide Detail at (858) 974-231.

Here is Upton talking about the horror of Romanian orphanages on the TV show “20/20.”




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