A new jury trial date has been set in 2019 for accused murderer Grayden Denham.
Denham appeared in Platte County Circuit Court last week before judge James Van Amburg. A jury trial was scheduled to begin Monday, April 22, 2019. An additional hearing was scheduled for Thursday, May 10.
Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd himself attended the hearing, along with assistant prosecutor Mark Gibson. The prosecutor’s office has affirmed it will pursue the death penalty in the case against Denham, who is accused of the 2016 murder of four of his relatives and arson of the family home in Edgerton.
A hearing on that plan has been delayed several times, in part due to an ongoing feud between Zahnd’s office and Denham’s defense attorney, John O’Connor.
O’Connor has sought to have Zahnd and his staff disqualified from the case — twice — but a Tuesday, March 13 order issued by Jackson County judge John Torrence has denied O’Connor’s request.
In September 2016, Zahnd’s office offered Denham a plea deal, to which no response was filed. Instead, O’Connor filed the first motion to disqualify the Platte County prosecutor.
The 12 charges against Denham, which were filed after a grand jury indictment, include four counts of first degree murder and four counts of armed criminal action in the homicides of his sister Heather Ager, 32, his three-month-old nephew Mason Schiavoni, his grandmother, Shirley Denham, 81, and his grandfather, Russell Denham, 82. Denham is also charged with felony arson for destruction of the family home, a felony for tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor for animal abuse. The felony charge of stealing his grandparents’ vehicle also remained on the indictment.
The four victims and the accused were residents of the same house at 4170 Buena Vista Road in Edgerton, although Grayden Denham has been called only an occasional occupant. When authorities responded to reports of a house fire at that address late on Friday, Feb. 19, they found four victims shot with the bodies still burning outside of the house. Three of the victims were found in the front yard, while Russell Denham’s body was located near an outbuilding with a red plastic gasoline container found nearby. A family dog was also found shot and burning at the scene.
Authorities apprehended Denham two days later while he was walking naked in Seligman, Ariz. They also located a brown 2012 Nissan Versa at a nearby hotel. The vehicle, belonging to Russell and Shirley Denham, was discovered missing during the fire/homicide investigation. Denham was not a registered guest at the hotel, and authorities also found a pile of clothing outside of the vehicle.
Denham was charged in Platte County with the theft of the Versa, which when it was found bore Oklahoma license plates taken from a rental car. He remained in custody in Yavapi County, Ariz. until an extradition process on that theft charge brought him back to Platte County. Denham remains in custody at the Platte County Detention Center in lieu of a $4 million cash-only bond.