Philadelphia - When Miguel Davilla got into an argument with a tenant at his unlicensed boarding home in Fairmount Saturday, he didn't put him out in the cold - he put him out cold - and then placed his dead body in the makeshift coffin he had built out of scrap wood in the home, according to police.
Davilla, 27, lived in the house on Croskey Street near Brown and was the landlord to five or six tenants, police said.
Among those tenants was Roben P. Woodson, 55, an aspiring actor who was late on his rent.
On Saturday, the back rent sparked an argument between Davilla and Woodson that ended with Davilla bludgeoning Woodson to death with a wooden baseball bat, Homicide Capt. James Clark said.
Only one of the tenants, who knew of bad blood between Davilla and Woodson, was suspicious enough to call police about the shabby coffin that appeared in the living room of the home the next day, Clark said.
When authorities arrived at the house shortly after 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Davilla opened the door. Police said they immediately spotted the 8-feet-by-2-feet coffin, which was thrown together out of scrap doors and plywood, with Woodson inside.
"It was a tailor-made box that fit the specifications of the individual he had killed," Clark said. "[He] took the time to walk around the house and find several different wooden doors and plywood and put together a coffin."
Police believe that Davilla built the coffin not only to conceal Woodson's body but also to eventually transport it.
"He didn't tell us where or what he was going to do with it," Clark said.
Davilla was charged with murder and related offenses yesterday. Clark said that Davilla's been "talking" but he's "not really" remorseful.
According to police and online documents, the building is owned by Davilla's father, Miguel Davilla Sr., who did not live at the house but sometimes stayed there. He is not a suspect in the case, Clark said.
Betty Casselli, 73, a neighbor, said that after Davilla's father remarried and moved to Delaware she started seeing different people coming in and out of the house.
Last summer, Casselli said, she asked the father what was going on at the home and he responded, "Well, my son needs company 'cause he's alone in the house."
Sunday night, she saw police lead Davilla out in handcuffs with his head down.
"This is horrifying," she said. "We've been here since 1963 and this is the first time there's been a murder."
The snow wasn't shoveled on the steps of the boarding house yesterday and there were no signs indicating that the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections had shut down the place.
Several calls to L&I and the Mayor's Press Office about the status of the house and the other residents who lived there were not returned yesterday.
A fire-red scooter and two bikes remained parked in front of the home. A group of men who worked at a nearby establishment said that Davilla was nicknamed "Scooter" because he always seemed to be riding his vehicle around the neighborhood.
He used to ride it around with his dad sometimes, said the men, who asked not to be identified.
"He'd sit on the back while his father drove," one of the men said. "He'd be holding two ice cream cones. Both of them wearing helmets and baggy overalls. It was summer. Something strange about him."
Neighbors said that Woodson had moved into the house within the last three or four months.
Nicole Ross, director of marketing and multicultural affairs with the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, said that Woodson was an aspiring actor with a noticeable stutter who'd always come into the office to get passes for events.
"He would come a couple times a week to see about the latest film events," she said. "He came to all our events."
Police said that neither of the men had a criminal history. *