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Jason Howell is shown. (Photo: Chandler Police Department)

PHOENIX -- A man was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday in the disappearance of his 78-year-old grandmother.

Jason Howell was the primary suspect in the disappearance of Helen Jean Lee, who was reported missing last week. A body found in the desert was confirmed to be that of Lee on Monday.

Police said Lee had a skull fracture the size of a baseball and her throat was cut from ear to ear.

Police found a bloody crime scene inside Lee's home after her family asked police to perform a welfare check.

The body was discovered in roughly the same area where police previously indicated they found evidence related to the woman's disappearance. Howell's cell phone was located in the area of the body as police attempted to contact him.

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. A report also said that Howell admitted to killing his grandmother because she charged him too much rent, had strict curfew rules and broke the garage door.

It wasn't clear if Howell had been appointed an attorney. He is set for a court appearance Thursday.

Howell was charged with first-degree murder, hindering prosecution and abandoning a body. He also has charges pending from the alleged car theft.

Police said they had prior contact with Howell and were aware he was prescribed medicine for schizophrenia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

KTAR Newsroom,

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