Preliminary hearing date set for Michael Vilkin

Preliminary hearing date set for Michael Vilkin
Michael Vilkin, who stands accused of murdering filmmaker John Upton, looks out at the courtroom Wednesday morning during a readiness hearing. He agreed to a preliminary hearing date of June 11. Photo by Jared Whitlock

ENCINITAS — At a readiness hearing Wednesday morning, Michael Vilkin, 61, appeared in court and agreed to a June 11 preliminary hearing. 

During the preliminary hearing, the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to force Vilkin to stand trial. The prosecutor may call witnesses to testify, and can introduce physical evidence.

Last week, Vilkin pleaded not guilty to the murder charge of John Upton, a 56-year-old filmmaker who gained international attention for shedding light on children kept in poor conditions in Romanian orphanages. If convicted, Vilkin faces 25 years to life in prison. He’s also been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, which carries a maximum of four years.

Vilkin, who is being held on $5 million in bail, shot Upton twice with a revolver near their homes on Lone Jack Road in the Olivenhain community.

Vilkin said that the shooting was made in self-defense in a jailhouse interview the day after his arrest. However, last week prosecutors said there isn’t evidence to support that claim at this time. Upton didn’t have a gun near his body, only a cell phone, when Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene.

Prosecutors said that the two men were in a dispute over brush and tree trimmings, which might have led to the shooting.

Last week, prosecutors said that Vilkin would be assigned a public defender.



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