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Similarities mark unrelated Christmas Eve killings of relatives

Two Buffalo men were charged in separate cases on Christmas Eve with killing a relative.

In each case, a relative of the victims called police and asked them to check on their loved one.

When they arrived, Buffalo police officers found both victims were already dead.

And in both circumstances, prosecutors asked the judge to order psychiatric evaluations for both suspects.

"Whenever anyone gets killed it's awful," Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said, "but when you have a son killing his mother and a grandson killing his grandmother, it obviously exacerbates it and makes it a much more tragic story."

Buffalo police found the body of Cheneta Oldham, 57, inside her Vernon Place home at about 5:40 p.m. Sunday. She had been shot in the torso and in the leg, according to Flynn.

Police also found her 38-year-old son, Gus Oldham, in the home. He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

A little more than two hours later, police found Pamela A. Toy, 74, dead in her home on Kamper Street in South Buffalo. No one else was in the home at the time police arrived. Authorities are awaiting autopsy results before they say how Toy died.

Toy's grandson, Alec M. Swiderski, 30, was arrested on Seneca Street, near Hammerschmidt Avenue, at about 12:30 a.m. Monday and charged with second-degree murder.

Prosecutors have not yet pinpointed the time of either woman's death. In court documents, prosecutors said Toy was beaten to death, though Flynn said she may have been strangled.

Buffalo City Court Judge Shannon Heneghan approved prosecutors' requests to have both defendants undergo a mental health examination.

"I have reason to believe that both individuals need a mental evaluation," Flynn said, declining to elaborate.

The call police received from a person concerned about Toy's welfare asked police to check on her. The call about Cheneta Oldham was different in that the caller thought something happened, Flynn said.

Both Oldham and Swiderski were held without bail and are due back in Buffalo City Court on Friday.

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