Police have charged Michael Bocchinfuso, 44, with murder and related offenses in the bludgeoning of his 71-year-old next-door neighbor in the Northeast Monday night.

Dallas Custalow died of cardiac arrest following the assault shortly before 8 p.m. outside his home on Anchor Street near Saul, police said.

Bocchinfuso barricaded himself inside his house until about midnight, and early reports that he had booby-trapped his house proved false, police said.

Bocchinfuso and Custalow were known to be friends, witnesses told police.

"He used to check in on Bocchinfuso, make sure he was all right and to drop off food," said Homicide Sgt. Bob Cooney. "Something set him off, we just don't know what yet."

But "Chief," as Custalow was known to some neighbors, met an untimely death when, police said, Bocchinfuso attacked him with a shovel and trash can after Custalow answered his door shortly before 8 p.m. After the attack, Custalow collapsed in his home where police found him unconscious.

He was taken to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 8:31 p.m.

He was described by neighbor LaTanya Boyer as a "lovely and pleasant man" who welcomed her and her son, then 5, when they moved in two houses down from him 10 years ago, she said.

"My son is very sad and it's hard for him to get a grip on why this happened," she said last night from her home. *