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Man sought in Edgerton fire remains in Arizona

Posted at 7:09 AM, Feb 20, 2016

Authorities say a man considered a "person of interest" in an Edgerton fire that killed four people,including an an infant, was arrested after he was found walking naked in a northwestern Arizona town.

RELATED:Family member of Edgerton fire victims: 'My life has been changed forever'

Grayden Lane Denham, 24, was arrested at the Flagstaff Medical Center on charges of displaying a fictitious license and theft.
 
He was transported to the hospital after he was found walking in Seligman, Ariz., naked early Sunday morning, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office said. 

Deputies say when asked, Denham provided the wrong date of birth and they were concerned for his medical condition.

A few hours later, a manager at the Stage Coach 66 Motel reported a suspicious vehicle parked on the property.

"I noticed a car parked in the front parking lot facing the road," said Carol Mikal. "I just thought it was a  little odd but just figured one of our patrons had a little too much to drink and left their car."

One of Mikal's coworkers called police. Denham never actually checked into the motel, Mikal said.

The 2012 Nissan Sedan, with an Oklahoma license plate for a rental car, was unlocked. The key in the ignition and clothing was lying on the ground next to the car, Yavapai County deputies said. Officials were able to identify Denham and his date of birth from the wallet found in the clothing.

Deputies checked the VIN number to discover the vehicle was entered as a felony vehicle and on hold for a Missouri law enforcement agency.

The Platte County Sheriff’s Office had reported the vehicle and the license plate stolen. Denham was booked at the Camp Verde Detention Center in Camp Verde, Ariz., where he remains in custody.

The manager at the hotel told deputies Denham was not a patron and did not have permission to be on the property.

The fire investigation so far

Officials say all four victims, one man, two women and an infant, were found badly burned outside of a home located on the 4100 block of Buena Vista Road around 11:30 p.m. on Friday.

Denham lived at this residence for a long period of time, court documents said.

An autopsy determined the four deaths were homicides. The victims’ names have not been released. Dental records are being processed at the medical examiner’s office.

“We want to be 100 percent positive before we release the names,” Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen said in a press conference on Monday. He was joined by Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd.

A gas can was found near one of the bodies, according to court documents. More than 20 investigators are working on leads in the homicides. 

Charges against Denham

According to court documents, Denham has previously pleaded guilty to assault in another case, and his address matches the home's address that burned down in Edgerton, Mo.

At Monday's press conference, Zahnd said Denham is facing a stealing charge for taking a 2012 Nissan Versa. 

The vehicle, owned by Russell and Shirley Denham, had handicapped plates, but when he was found in Arizona the plates had been changed to Oklahoma, officials said. 

Denham was not supposed to drive because his license was suspended, officials said. Extradition of Denham has been requested in Arizona. Denham was placed on a $100,000 cash-only bond.

During a news conference on Monday, Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen said the main goal in the case now is to bring justice.

"This has been ongoing since it started," he said. "We've not stopped at all to try and bring some conclusions to try and figure out what caused this. We want justice for these victims."

Several deputies are now on the way to Arizona to help in the investigation.

"Additional staff from the sheriff's office is being dispatched this afternoon," explained Owen. "They're driving and taking equipment with them so we can process additional evidence."

Investigators will now work to extradite Denham back to Missouri and get more answers following the tragic fire in Edgerton.

"We've got more than 20 investigators who are looking very carefully and following all sorts of leads," said Zahnd.

Denham's criminal record

In 2015, Raytown police arrested Denham for driving on a suspended license. Police later discovered Denham had five active warrants out for his arrest.

When officers went to book Denham, court records show Denham assaulted the Johnson County, Mo., corrections officer.

The police report shows Denham “attempted to strike [the] CDO in the head with his right elbow” and grabbed the officer “with both hands by the back of the neck and started pulling downward.”

Video from the jail apparently showed “Grayden smiling” during the attack.

Denham pleaded guilty to the assault charge on Jan. 29, 2016, and received two years probation.

Community remembers victims

Family members say Heather Denham and her 3-month-old son Mason are dead. Heather Denham’s mother told 41 Action News Mason was the light of Heather Denham's life and that she had never been happier.

People throughout Edgerton had nothing but positive things to say about Shirley and Russell Denham. Others who did not know the family say they are in disbelief.

“Shock and heartbreak and questions, it’s hard, it’s hard when something like this happens and there aren’t any answers to your questions,” said Edgerton resident Debbie Phan, who dropped off flowers. 

Barbara Carter, who lives in Edgerton, said, “It makes you more, it makes you more want to be lovey and hold your kids and tell everybody you love them more."

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