GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — A 78-year-old suburban Phoenix woman who disappeared this week remains missing and might have been killed in a case that involves indications of foul play at her home and evidence found in the desert about 50 miles away, police said Friday.
Police said that an adult grandson who lived with Helen Jean Lee in Goodyear is a "person of interest" in the case. Meanwhile, 40-year-old Jason Eric Howell faces kidnapping and other charges stemming from an unrelated carjacking in another Phoenix suburb.
Lee was reported missing from her home Wednesday, the same day Howell was arrested in the theft of an SUV from a Chandler school. A preteen girl in the vehicle was able to jump out.
One of the seven charges pending against Howell accuses him of using the SUV to ram the car of a Chandler police officer who spotted the stolen SUV. The officer arrested Howell at gunpoint, a police affidavit said.
Authorities found unspecified evidence of a crime in the rural Gila Bend area, based on information Howell provided, Goodyear police spokeswoman Lisa Kutis said. She declined to describe the evidence.
Chandler police documents filed in court in the carjacking case said Howell is the primary suspect in the murder of his grandmother and is a suspect in a Goodyear police murder investigation.
However, Kutis said Goodyear police hadn't determined that Lee was dead and were not identifying him as a suspect in their case.
"Right now, he is a person of interest only," she said. "We are actively interviewing him for information."
Howell has not yet been appointed an attorney. A court commissioner on Friday ordered him held in lieu of $300,000 bond. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said Howell wasn't in the jail's housing Friday afternoon and wouldn't be available for interview requests.
Police said Thursday that officers found indications of foul play at Lee's home when they went there late Wednesday after a daughter who lives in Tucson was unable to reach her mother.
TV news footage of Lee's home showed heavy damage to the garage door, as if something rammed or backing into it.