VISTA, Calif.—A man pleaded not guilty Tuesday in the shooting death of an internationally known filmmaker with whom he had a longstanding quarrel about shrubs and trees along their property line in the San Diego area, authorities said.

Michael Vilkin, 61, entered his plea in the shooting death of his neighbor, John Upton, a 56-year-old who was known for his work rescuing Romanian orphans in the 90s, UT San Diego reported (http://bit.ly/Z6T4Ny).

Vilkin and two workers were clearing brush Thursday when Upton came outside, according to prosecutor David Uyar. Upton offered to move his car for the workers before Vilkin allegedly shot him, Uyar said.

Uyar said the shooting was without warning and Upton was unarmed.

In a jailhouse interview, Vilkin told ABC 10News that the shooting was in self-defense and Upton had threatened him with a gun.

"It was self-defense; I did not go to him. He came to me threatening and pulled a gun at me. I did not go to him. I stayed away on my property," Vilkin told the station.

Vilkin faces 35 years to life in prison if convicted of charges of murder and using a gun. His bail has been set at $5 million.

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Information from: U-T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com


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