KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 24-year-old Missouri man was charged Monday with four counts of first-degree murder in the February deaths of four family members whose bodies were found outside a home he shared with them, including a 3-month-old nephew.
The charges against Grayden Denham were the result of a grand jury indictment handed down Friday, Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said at a news conference. Denham is also charged with four counts of armed criminal action, and one count each of animal abuse, second-degree arson, tampering with evidence and stealing a motor vehicle. He is being held on $4 million cash-only bond.
Denham was found walking naked in northern Arizona on Feb. 21, two days after the bodies of his grandparents, sister and her infant son were found near Edgerton, 30 miles north of Kansas City. Denham was returned to Missouri earlier this month after being held in Arizona on suspicion of theft and displaying a fictitious license plate.
Zahnd said it would be at least a month before he decides whether to seek the death penalty against Denham.
“This is a devastating thing to happen to a family and happen to a community. Our goal has been and will continue to be to do justice for everyone involved in this case,” he said.
Missouri investigators had considered him a “person of interest” in the quadruple homicide but had been held only on a theft charge accusing him of stealing his grandparents’ car to drive to Arizona.
Denham’s attorney, John P. O’Connor, declined to comment Monday other than to say his client would plead not guilty.
Authorities found the body of Russell Denham, 82, near a small shed, while the bodies of Shirley Denham, 81; Heather Ager, 31; and her son, Mason Schiavoni, were found near the home, which also had been set on fire. A dog also was killed and burned. All four victims had been shot in the head, and a gas container was found near a body.
In February, Denham gave the wrong date of birth when Arizona law enforcement initially approached him near Seligman, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn has said. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Flagstaff due to concern about his medical condition.
A motel manager reported a suspicious parked car that didn’t belong to its guests later that morning, D’Evelyn said. The car was unlocked, had a key in the ignition and its license plate had been reported stolen. Denham’s Missouri identification, which has his real date of birth, was found in a wallet in a pile of clothes next to the car, D’Evelyn said.
Online court records show that Denham was sentenced Jan. 29 in Johnson County, Missouri, to two years of probation and 20 hours of community service on a misdemeanor assault charge. Zahnd said Denham’s driver’s license has been revoked because of traffic infractions and child-support issues.