As the Edgerton community gathered on Sunday evening to pray and mourn the deaths of three adults and an infant in a Platte County fire, police announced that 24-year-old Grayden Lane Denham, the “person of interest” in the case, was found outside Missouri. The fire is being investigated as a potential homicide.
Authorities said Denham was found unharmed with the brown 2012 Nissan Versa sedan they were seeking.
Family members have said that they believed the victims in Friday night’s fire in the 4100 block of Buena Vista Road near Edgerton were Russell and Shirley Denham, who lived in the house, the Denhams’ granddaughter Heather Denham and her 3-month-old son, Mason Gage Denham.
The mood was somber at a prayer meeting Sunday evening at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Edgerton, where the Denhams were members.
At the beginning of the prayer meeting, the Rev. Jon Denney, senior pastor at Mount Zion, said that while the identities of the victims hadn’t been formally released, neighbors know who lived at the address of the fire and that they haven’t been seen since.
Prayer leaders led church members in prayers for the community, the first responders, the investigators, the local churches and the victims’ family and friends. The prayer leader said that Russell and Shirley Denham were “awesome” and that they would be missed.
“We want to pray for all of them who are involved in this,” Denney said prior to the service. “So many people are involved in this in so many different ways.”
The deaths have had an intense impact on the community, Denney said. People are dealing with a great deal of sorrow, shock and anger, he said.
“Our hope is in God and Gospel,” Denney said. “That’s where it starts. That’s why we are having this prayer meeting this evening, to be able to lift up our concerns and all the aches of our hearts to God.
“But then there’s just the practical things. This is a community that is going to pull together, help one another, encourage one another. We’ll weep together and we’ll make it through it together.”
Heather Denham’s mother, Shelly Denham, said before the service that her son is “just wanted for questioning. They were very, very close. In my heart, I don't feel that he did this.”
On Saturday 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.”
Grayden Denham’s uncle, Kevin Shelton, confirmed Sunday that Grayden is Heather’s brother and Russell and Shirley Denham’s grandson.
Shelton said Grayden Denham sometimes stayed at his grandparents’ house, but Shelton did not know whether Grayden had been staying there recently.
Shelton said even though investigators want to talk to Grayden, “it doesn’t mean that he did this.”
Investigators did not release any details about what led them to consider the deaths as homicides. Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen said Saturday that he felt something about the scene “wasn’t quite right.”
The fire was reported at 11:41 p.m. Friday.
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.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Metro Squad at 816-876-7970 or the Tips Hotline at 816-474-8477.