Detectives find unidentified body in Ariz. desert

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) - Arizona authorities who have been investigating the disappearance of a 78-year-old suburban Phoenix woman said Saturday they have found an unidentified body in the desert near Gila Bend.

This is the same general area where the missing woman's grandson had led detectives to find additional evidence, Goodyear police spokeswoman Lisa Kutis said.

It could be Monday before medical investigators identify the body, but Kutis did say that Helen Jean Lee's grandson, 40-year-old Jason Eric Howell, is the prime suspect in the woman's disappearance.

Lee was reported missing from her home Wednesday, the same day Howell was arrested in the theft of an SUV from a Chandler school.

Police first went to Lee's home late Wednesday for a welfare check after a daughter who lives in Tucson was unable to reach her mother. TV news footage of the home showed heavy damage to the garage door, as if something rammed or backed into it.

Two days later, investigators said Lee might have been killed after they found indications of foul play at her home and evidence in the desert about 50 miles away.

Detectives continued to process what Kutis described as a crime scene at Lee's home on Saturday.

It was not clear if Howell has been appointed an attorney. He was ordered held Friday in lieu of $300,000 bond on charges related to the carjacking case.

One of the seven charges accuses Howell of using the SUV to ram the car of a Chandler police officer who spotted the stolen vehicle. The officer arrested Howell at gunpoint, according to an affidavit.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Top Stories

  • Bad Idea
    The man behind a staged child abduction apologizes for scaring young kids, parents

  • Oso Clean
    An army of volunteers is making sure mudslide searchers get to put on warm, dry clothes

  • Vacation Time
    Two airlines are battling for your business and you're the winner
ATTENTION COMMENTERS: We've changed our comments, but want to keep you in the conversation.
Please login below with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing MyNorthwest account holders will need to create a new Disqus account or use one of the social logins provided below. Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus
Sign up for breaking news e-mail alerts from
In the community
Do you know a student who stands out in the classroom, school and community?
Help make their dreams come true by nominating them for a $1,000 scholarship and a chance to earn a $10,000 Grand Prize. Brought to you by KIRO Radio and Comprehensive Wealth Management.

Do you know an exceptional citizen who has impacted and inspired others?
KIRO Radio and WSECU would like to recognize six oustanding citizens this year. Nominate them to be recognized and to receive a $2,000 charitable grant.