A late-night fire just south of Edgerton, Mo., destroyed a house and left four people — including a baby — dead. The fire is being investigated as a potential homicide.
The house was fully engulfed when fire crews arrived. Four fire departments responded to the fire, which was reported at 11:41 p.m. Friday, said Capt. Erik Holland of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. The house is in the 3700 block of Buena Vista Road.
Shortly after the sheriff’s department arrived on the scene, Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen felt something about the scene “wasn’t quite right.”
“The more I looked, the more it didn’t seem right,” he said Saturday morning.
Investigators found the bodies of two women, a third adult and a baby. Law enforcement has not identified the victims and said there were no suspects at this time. Officials with the sheriff’s department would not say who was in the house when it went up in flames.
Family members said they believe Russell and Shirley Denham, an older couple who lived in the house, the Denhams’ granddaughter Heather Denham and her 3-month-old son, Mason Gage Denham, were killed.
“They were my ex-in-laws,” said Shelly Denham, Heather’s mother. She said the couple had met in England, where Russell Denham, a retired military man, was serving at the time.
Shelly Denham, who lives in the Northland, said she saw her daughter’s car in the driveway of the house when she arrived at the scene.
Her 32-year-old daughter, a graduate of Liberty High School, spent a lot of time with her grandparents, Denham said. “She didn’t live there, but she loved staying with them,” she said.
Usually, Denham said, she would talk on the phone with her daughter every day. When she hadn’t heard from her Friday evening she was worried.
About 4:30 a.m. Saturday, “detectives knocked on my door and told me there had been a fire,” Denham said.
She said her daughter became a first-time mother Nov. 14. “She adored her son,” Denham said. “All she cared about was being a mom. She always had Mason with her. He never left her side. And he was just a happy baby.”
Denham said her 24-year-old son is missing and she feared he may have been in the house on Buena Vista Road about a quarter-mile east of Route B.
“This is my worst nightmare come true, my worst nightmare,” Denham said.
Sheriff’s deputies were interviewing family members and neighbors in this rural community where homes are separated by acres of fields and farmland.
On Saturday morning, investigators, including the state fire marshal and medical examiner, were at the scene in Platte County. The fire crews who had worked overnight remained at the scene, putting out hot spots, said Holland.
Owen said firefighters, including volunteer crews from the Trimble, Camden Point and Dearborn fire departments, extinguished the blaze in about 30 minutes. “It was destroyed,” Owen said. Only one wall of the structure was left standing. Firefighters later pulled it down because it was unsafe.
Heavy equipment was brought in to move debris to see if any other victims were in the home.
“This hurts all of us, the entire community,” Holland said. “There is no other situation more tragic, especially when the death of people, children are involved.”
Brenda Wilder, who was helping out at Harmer’s Cafe in Edgerton, said she drives by the house where the fire occurred nearly every day and has known Russell and Shirley Denham for 50 years.
“It’s devastating,” Wilder said. “When something like this happens, the whole town is crushed.”
Those at the cafe expressed their condolences on Facebook on Saturday afternoon. Russell Denham was a cafe regular.
“The Harmers cafe family would like to express our sincere condolences to the Denham family during this difficult time! Russell will dearly be missed by many including us,” the post read.
A woman reached by phone identified herself as Heather Denham’s cousin but declined to give her name.
“She was a good mom,” the woman said. “He was her pride and joy.”
The Rev. Jon Denney, pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church, 5705 Route Z in Edgerton, where the Denhams were members, said the church would hold a 6 p.m. service on Sunday “to pray for the family and friends.”