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Police: Body found in desert that of missing woman

PHOENIX — A body found in the desert near Gila Bend is that of a missing 78-year-old Valley woman, police said Monday.

The body was discovered in the same general area where the
missing woman’s grandson had led detectives to find evidence in the case,
Goodyear police spokeswoman Lisa Kutis said. Jason Eric Howell, 40, is considered the prime suspect.

Authorities have provided no additional details.

Helen Jean Lee was reported missing Wednesday when police responded to her home
after receiving a call from her daughter who lives in Tucson and was concerned
she wasn’t able to reach the woman.

Investigators have said Lee might have been killed after they found indications
of foul play at her home.

The body was discovered in roughly the same area where police
previously indicated they found evidence related to the woman’s disappearance.
They declined to elaborate.

The same day Lee was reported missing, her grandson was arrested on multiple
charges, including assaulting a police officer and kidnapping. Howell remained
jailed Monday on $300,000 bond.

Chandler police said Howell stole an SUV that was idling outside an elementary
school. A 12-year-old girl who was in the backseat managed to escape the moving
vehicle and suffered minor injuries, according to a police report. Howell then
led police on a chase that ended after he rammed an officer’s patrol car, the
report states.

He was arrested after first telling police to “shoot him,” according to the

Detectives said Howell told police he was drunk and high on methamphetamine. It
wasn’t clear if he had been appointed an attorney. He is set for a court
appearance Thursday.

The KTAR Newsroom contributed to this report.


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