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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 report.

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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