One of the people most affected by the quadruple homicide this past February in Edgerton, Mo. spoke out to local media this week — in defense of her son Grayden Denham, a person of interest in the case.
“I would like for people to know he’s not the monster people are portraying him to be just because of his looks,” Shelly Denham said to Kansas City media gathered outside the Platte County Courthouse on Tuesday, June 14 following a preliminary hearing for her son on a charge of felony car theft.
Shelly Denham is mother and grandmother to two of the victims in the Feb. 19 incident.
Graydon Denham, 24, who was extradited from Arizona last week and remains in custody in the Platte County Detention Center on the stealing charge, had a brief appearance Tuesday in Platte County Circuit Court. Represented by attorney John O’Connor, Denham appeared before Judge W. Ann Hansbrough to waive his right to a preliminary hearing. He will next appear before Judge James Van Amburg at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 23.
“It’s very hard to see my son walk out in shackles,” Shelly Denham said. “I’ve never seen him handcuffed, and it just took my breath away.”
At the hearing, Shelly Denham saw her son for the first time since February, and she took the opportunity to speak to Platte County prosecuting attorney Eric Zahnd about her questions and concerns. She said she was pleased with her meeting with the prosecution and that she had submitted what she termed as “strong evidence” that her son isn’t to blame for the crimes.
Shelly Denham characterized her son as having “a very kind heart” and said she had been in communication with her daughter, victim Heather Ager, just days before the murders and that siblings Ager and Grayden Denham had been recently spending a lot of time together.
“Him and Heather were very, very close, and she wrote me every day the week before the murders and said what a good time they were having,” Shelly Denham said.
Although no murder charges have been filed, Grayden Denham has been listed as a person of interest in the deaths of four family members. The victims are 82-year-old Russell Denham, 81-year-old Shirley Denham, 32-year-old Heather Ager and Mason Schiavoni, Ager’s three-month-old son. Grayden Denham was the grandson of the two eldest victims, brother of Ager and uncle to Schiavoni.
All five 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 murdered with the bodies burnt 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 dead at the scene.
Authorities apprehended Grayden 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. Grayden Denham was not a registered guest at the hotel, and authorities also found a pile of clothing outside of the vehicle.
Shelly Denham has no explanation for her son’s behavior when he was located in Arizona, and said she has not spoken to him about the incident nor the crime in general. As calls she makes to him in jail are recorded, she said she doesn’t discuss the case with him. However, she speculated that perhaps her son had been taken to Arizona and drugged. She believes the real perpetrators of the crimes are still at large.
On Monday, Feb. 22, Zahnd charged Grayden Denham with felony theft for taking the Versa, which bore Oklahoma license plates from a rental car when it was located in Arizona.
Grayden Denham remained in custody in Yavapi County, Ariz. on other charges, and recently, the extradition process brought him back to Platte County. He remains in custody in lieu of a $100,000 cash-only bond.
The charges in Arizona against Grayden Denham were dropped.