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Police ID body found in desert as missing 78-year-old suburban Phoenix woman; grandson suspect

  • This undated photo released by the Goodyear, Ariz., Police Department shows Helen Jean Lee. Lee, 78, has been missing from her Goodyear home since Oct. 30. Arizona authorities who have been investigating her disappearance said Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 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, police said. It could be Monday before medical investigators identify the body, but police say Lee's grandson, 40-year-old Jason Eric Howell, is the prime suspect in the woman's disappearance. (AP Photo/Goodyear Police Department)

    This undated photo released by the Goodyear, Ariz., Police Department shows Helen Jean Lee. Lee, 78, has been missing from her Goodyear home since Oct. 30. Arizona authorities who have been investigating her disappearance said Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 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, police said. It could be Monday before medical investigators identify the body, but police say Lee's grandson, 40-year-old Jason Eric Howell, is the prime suspect in the woman's disappearance. (AP Photo/Goodyear Police Department)  (The Associated Press)

  • This undated photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows Jason Eric Howell in Phoenix.  Police say that Howell is a "person of interest" in the case of a 78-year-old suburban Phoenix woman, who disappeared this week and also faces charges stemming from an unrelated carjacking in another Phoenix suburb. (AP Photo/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

    This undated photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows Jason Eric Howell in Phoenix. Police say that Howell is a "person of interest" in the case of a 78-year-old suburban Phoenix woman, who disappeared this week and also faces charges stemming from an unrelated carjacking in another Phoenix suburb. (AP Photo/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)  (The Associated Press)

Arizona authorities say a body found over the weekend in the desert is that of a missing 78-year-old suburban Phoenix woman.

Police say the body was discovered in the same general area where Helen Jean Lee's grandson had led detectives to find additional evidence. The grandson, 40-year-old Jason Eric Howell, is considered the only suspect in the killing.

Lee was reported missing from her home Wednesday, the same day Howell was arrested in the theft of an SUV from a Chandler school. He is accused of ramming a police car and kidnapping, among other charges.

It wasn't clear if Howell has been appointed an attorney. He remains jailed and hasn't been charged in Lee's killing.

Authorities declined to release additional details about the case.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Arizona authorities investigating the disappearance of a 78-year-old suburban Phoenix woman were awaiting the identification Monday of a body found over the weekend in the desert.

The body found near Gila Bend 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 now considered the prime suspect.

Authorities have provided no additional details.

"We just need to get a positive ID on the body," Kutis said Monday.

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 unidentified 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 say 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 sustained 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 say 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.