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Phoenix-area man sentenced to 25 years in prison for grandmother’s murder

PHOENIX — A Goodyear man who pleaded guilty to killing his grandmother was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in prison.

Jason Eric Howell, 40, also was sentenced to lifetime supervised probation
after previously pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

He killed his grandmother by beating her with a shovel and slitting her throat over her strict curfew rules
and how much she charged him for rent.

At the same change-of-plea hearing two months ago in Maricopa County Superior
Court, Howell also pleaded guilty to child abuse and aggravated assault charges
in another case.

Howell originally was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree
murder, hindering prosecution and abandoning a body.

He led investigators to a desert area near Gila Bend, about 75 miles
southwest of Phoenix, where the body of Helen Jean Lee, 78, was found on Nov. 2,
Goodyear police said.

She was reported missing days earlier after a relative called police concerned
that she couldn’t reach Lee.

Detectives found what they described as a bloody crime scene inside the woman’s
Goodyear home.

Authorities said Howell had lived at his grandmother’s home in a gated
community for the past three years.

Howell first attempted to kill Lee while she slept, but he stopped when she
awoke, court records show.

A few days later, Howell allegedly attacked his grandmother with a shovel and
then slit her throat before disposing of her body in the desert.

Goodyear police said they had responded to calls at Lee’s home numerous times
in the past as Howell had hallucinations and displayed “erratic behavior and
violent tendencies.”

The same day that Lee was reported missing, Howell was arrested on multiple
charges including assaulting a police officer and kidnapping.

Police in Chandler, about 30 miles east of Goodyear, said Howell stole an SUV
that was idling outside an elementary school.

A 12-year-old girl in the backseat managed to escape the moving vehicle and
suffered minor injuries.

Howell then led authorities on a chase that ended after he rammed a Chandler
police officer’s patrol car. He later told authorities that he was drunk and
high on methamphetamine at the time.


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