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Crime News

Man Found Wandering Naked In The Desert Sentenced For 'Shocking And Gruesome' Murders Of Four Relatives

Authorities found Grayden Denham wandering in the Arizona desert two days after responders found his family still burning in their front yard in Missouri.

By Jax Miller
Grayden Denham Pd

A man in Missouri has been sentenced for brutally murdering four of his family members, including a 3-month-old baby.

Grayden Denham, 30, was sentenced to four life sentences plus 115 years for shooting his relatives and burning their bodies in 2016, according to ABC affiliate KMBC News. A Platte County jury found Denham guilty in December for the murders of his grandparents, Russell and Shirley Denham, his sister, Heather Ager, and Ager’s infant son, Mason Schiavoni.

Denham was convicted of four counts each of first-degree murder and armed criminal action, plus one count of second-degree arson, stealing a motor vehicle, and animal abuse, according to court records.

“The defendant massacred his entire family, including the family dog,” said Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd. “He shot each of them, including his 3-month-old nephew, in the head and burned their bodies. These were shocking and gruesome murders of a loving family.”

Firefighters were called to a house fire at the family home near Edgerton just before midnight on Feb. 19, 2016, where they found the four bodies on the property, according to KMBC. WIBW-TV reported that the suspect placed pennies on the victims’ eyes, as seen in the film “The Boondock Saints,” later reported as one of Denham’s favorite films.

Three of the victims’ bodies were still burning in the front yard when responders arrived at the scene, while the grandfather’s body was located near an outbuilding, according to the Platte County Citizen. A red gasoline can was found nearby.

Denham had a history of methamphetamine use and was seen arguing with his 82-year-old grandfather one day before the murders, according to WBIW.

Following the murders, Denham stole his 81-year-old grandmother’s Nissan Versa and fled Missouri, according to KMBC. He stole license plates while traveling through Oklahoma and Texas and switched them before ending up in Arizona.

Two days after the murders, authorities in Arizona acted on a tip from a motel manager who reported a suspicious car that didn’t belong to any of the guests, according to CBS News. Police ran the license plates, revealing the vehicle were stolen. Denham’s wallet, containing his Missouri ID, was found in a pile of clothes outside the unlocked vehicle.

Denham was found naked and wandering the desert later that day. He was arrested and extradited back to Missouri to face charges related to the quadruple murder.

The trial faced many delays, including the court’s findings that Denham was not fit to stand trial, according to the Associated Press. The court later deemed the defendant restored to competence, and the trial proceeded.

Judge James Van Amburg sentenced Denham to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for each of the murder counts, seven years for arson, seven years for auto theft, and one year for animal abuse, according to KMBC.

“I believe this is the only quadruple homicide in Platte County history,” said Zahnd, according to WBIW. “We can pray it is the last. But it’s right and just that the man responsible will die in prison for his horrific crimes.”