Platte County prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty in the quadruple homicide of four family members whose bodies were found burned outside a home near Edgerton.
Grayden Lane Denham, 25, is accused in the shooting deaths of his grandparents, his older sister and 3-month-old nephew and then of methodically setting their bodies on fire.
A hearing is set for prosecutors to present evidence to support the death penalty on June 1 in Platte County Circuit Court. Prosecutor Eric Zahnd declined to comment about the filing. Zahnd has previously hinted that he was considering seeking the death penalty.
Denham was charged in June with first-degree murder after authorities discovered the bodies of his grandparents, Russell Denham, 82, and Shirley Denham, 81; his sister, Heather Ager, 32; and her son, Mason Schiavoni.
A grand jury indicted Grayden Denham in the deaths and also charged him with animal abuse for allegedly shooting the family dog; arson for allegedly setting fire to the home at 4170 Buena Vista Road in rural Platte County; and tampering with physical evidence by allegedly destroying the bodies of the victims and the residence.
He is being held in the Platte County Detention Center with bond set at $4 million. Denham has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges. John P. O’Connor, who is representing Denham in the criminal case, could not be reached for comment.
Denham’s mother, Shelley Denham, said they were surprised that prosecutors decided to seek the death penalty.
“We believe that Grayden is 100 percent innocent,” Shelley Denham said. “We want to know who did this, but we don’t believe Grayden did it.”
Grayden Denham had already been charged with theft for allegedly taking his grandparents’ car without permission and driving it about 1,200 miles to Seligman, Ariz., where police arrested him as he walked around naked.
On Feb. 19, 2016, authorities were summoned to the family residence on a reported fire. Arriving emergency crews found Russell Denham’s body east of the house near a small shed. The bodies of Shirley Denham, Ager and Mason were found in front of the house.
Each of the bodies, including the dog’s, was burning when firefighters arrived, according to authorities.
Ager died from gunshot and shotgun wounds to her head, according to a copy of a death certificate obtained by Shelly Denham. Someone also shot the grandparents and Mason in the head before setting their bodies on fire. Mason was in his mother’s arms.
Details of what led to the shooting and fire have not been released because the case was presented to a grand jury.
Grayden Denham occasionally lived at the residence where the victims died. He was not allowed to drive his grandparents’ vehicles because his Missouri driver’s license had been revoked for points violations and child support enforcement, according to authorities.