Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Friday, March 29, 2013 at 4:21 PM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Filmmaker who rescued Romanian orphans is killed

A documentary filmmaker known for helping rescue children from squalid Romanian orphanages in the early 1990s was fatally shot following an apparent dispute over the trimming of shrubbery outside his Southern California home, officials said Friday.

The Associated Press

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
No comments have been posted to this article.
Start the conversation >

advertising

ENCINITAS, Calif. —

A documentary filmmaker known for helping rescue children from squalid Romanian orphanages in the early 1990s was fatally shot following an apparent dispute over the trimming of shrubbery outside his Southern California home, officials said Friday.

John Charles Upton Jr., 56, was found dead Thursday on a dirt path in the yard of his Encinitas home. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said detectives arrested Michael Vilkin, 61, on suspicion of murder. He was being held without bail, pending arraignment Tuesday.

Upton, after learning of the plight of Romanian orphans, publicized the brutal conditions and was instrumental in bringing an estimated two dozen orphans to America for medical care and adoption.

Vilkin, in an interview conducted in county jail, told KGTV in San Diego he fired gunshots in self-defense after Upton menaced him with a gun during a dispute over foliage.

Vilkin said he owns vacant property next to Upton's home, and the two men had a disagreement over trimming shrubs.

"I did not go to him," Vilkin told the station. "He came to me threatening and pulled a gun (on) me."

A statement from the department said a dispute between the two men led to the shooting, which was under investigation.

Upton's brother, Michael Upton, told U-T San Diego that his brother and Vilkin previously argued about trees.

Upton's work in Romania also gained the attention of influential activists, inspiring billionaire philanthropist Richard Branson and actress Jessica Lange to help rescue youngsters from Romania.

Upton went on to create an online network of films about charitable causes.

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Get ready for 2015

Get ready for 2015

The Seattle Times 12-month wall calendar features hand-picked photos of life in the Pacific Northwest. Order while supplies last!

Advertising

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►