Grayden Denham, 25, has pleaded not guilty in the 2016 killings of his grandparents, sister and infant nephew

By Jeff Truesdell
June 01, 2017 06:05 PM
Credit: Platte County Prosecutor's Office

A Missouri man could face the death penalty following an alleged rampage in which he fatally shot and then burned four family members and a dog — whose bodies were all found at his rural residence in February 2016, PEOPLE confirms.

Grayden Lane Denham, 25, has pleaded not guilty to the four charges of first-degree murder that he faces.

Mark Gibson, the assistant prosecuting attorney of Platte County, in northwest Missouri, filed a motion this week to seek the death penalty if Denham is convicted. The motion was on behalf of the county prosecutor, Eric Zahnd, who declined additional comment to PEOPLE through his spokesperson.

Authorities discovered the bodies of Denham’s relatives on Feb. 20, 2016, at his residence in Edgerton, Missouri, after responding to reports of a structural fire, according to a probable cause statement obtained by PEOPLE.

Dead and lying in the front yard were his 81-year-old grandmother, Shirley Denham; his sister, Heather Ager, 32; and Ager’s 3-month-old son, Mason Schiavoni.

Platte County sheriff’s deputies — who found the home “fully engulfed in flames” — also discovered the dog dead in the yard, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The body of Denham’s grandfather, 82-year-old Russell Denham, was found near an out building east of the house.

All had been shot and were still on fire, authorities say.

Denham was missing from the residence along with his grandparents’ vehicle, which he was barred from driving because his license had been revoked due to points violations and child support enforcement, according to court documents.

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The next day, Feb. 21, Denham was picked up in Arizona, where authorities found the car and allege that its Missouri plates had been replaced with stolen Oklahoma plates. He was arrested after police encountered him walking around naked, reports The Kansas City Star.

In June 2016, a grand jury indicted Denham on the four murder charges, as well as second-degree arson for allegedly burning down the house where he and the victims lived together. The murder charges each carry a minimum sentence of life without parole.

Denham was also charged with four courts of armed criminal action, with a mandatory minimum sentence of three years; tampering with physical evidence, with a penalty of up to four years in prison; stealing a motor vehicle, punishable by up to seven years in prison; and misdemeanor animal abuse.

Neither a motive nor a defense have been revealed, and Denham’s attorney, John P. O’Connor, declined to speak about the case following a hearing Thursday in which the trial was delayed from its scheduled start date of June 19, according to the St. Joseph News-Press.

O’Connor did not immediately return PEOPLE’s call for comment.

“We believe that Grayden is 100 percent innocent,” Denham’s mother told The Star. “We want to know who did this, but we don’t believe Grayden did it.”

He is being held on a $4 million bond at the Platte County Detention Center. He did not appear in court Thursday, reports the News-Press, but has his next court hearing on Aug. 3.