Four killed near Edgerton in 2016
A man who killed his grandfather, grandmother, sister, and a three-month old baby and then burned their bodies has been sentenced to four terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 115 years.
Grayden Denham, 30, received the sentence Friday, Feb. 25 after he was convicted by a Platte County jury in December 2021
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This defendant massacred his entire family, including the family dog. He shot each of them–including his three-month old nephew–in the head, and then he burned their bodies. These were shocking and gruesome murders of a loving family.”
During trial, jurors heard that, just before midnight on February 19, 2016, firefighters were dispatched to Buena Vista Road near Edgerton after neighbors discovered the home of Russell and Shirley Denham on fire. The home was fully engulfed by the time firefighters arrived.
The neighbors and firefighters discovered the bodies of Russell, Shirley, their granddaughter Heather Ager, and her three-month-old son Mason Schiavoni. all of whom had been shot and set on fire near the home. The family dog Jack had also been shot multiple times and burned.
The Platte County Sheriff’s Department and Missouri State Fire Marshal’s office began an investigation, and the Metropolitan Major Case Squad made up of seasoned detectives from the Kansas City metro area was activated.
Denham had been living at the home and was nowhere to be found. Investigation later revealed that, after buying gasoline cans earlier in the day and filling them with both diesel fuel and gasoline, he stole his grandmother’s Nissan Versa and fled.
Denham switched license plates on that car twice, after stealing plates in Oklahoma and Texas. He was eventually arrested in Seligman, Arizona after abandoning clothes that later tested positive for the presence of gunshot residue and fuel.
Two pennies were found on or near the eyes of each of the victims, including the family dog. Denham’s former girlfriend testified at trial that one of Denham’s favorite movies was The Boondock Saints. In that movie, the killers place pennies on the eyes of their victims after shooting them.
Witnesses testified to rising tensions between Denham and his family preceding their murders. Denham was seen arguing with his grandfather Russell the day before the killings. Evidence also showed that Denham had been using methamphetamine.
The jury convicted Denham of four counts of first degree murder, four counts of armed criminal action, animal abuse, second degree arson, and stealing. Judge James Van Amburg sentenced Denham to life in prison without the possibility of parole on each of the murder counts, 25 years each on the armed criminal action counts, one year in jail for animal abuse, seven years in prison for arson, and seven years in prison for stealing. He ordered the sentences to run consecutively, resulting in four life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus 115 years.
Zahnd said, “I believe this is the only quadruple homicide in Platte County history. We can pray it is the last. But it’s right and just that the man responsible will die in prison for his horrific crimes.”
The case was investigated by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Metropolitan Major Case Squad, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Laboratory, with the assistance of the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Yavapai County, Arizona Sheriff’s Office. It was prosecuted by Zahnd and Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Mark Gibson and Blake Sherer.