Goodyear woman, 78, disappears, grandson 'person of interest'
Goodyear police released the drivers license photo of Helen Lee.
13606 W. Holly St. in Goodyear. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Jason Howell's most recent mug shot.
Jason Howell (Source: Chandler Police Department)
Howell's mug shot from 2012 when he was arrested on charges of DUI and disorderly conduct.
GOODYEAR, AZ (CBS5) -
A man arrested on charges of stealing an SUV and ramming a police patrol car twice is a person of interest in the disappearance of his 78-year-old grandmother, police said.
Goodyear police said they are questioning Jason Howell, 40, after Helen Jean Lee disappeared under suspicious circumstances.
Goodyear detectives were in the Gila Bend area Thursday afternoon following up a report of an unidentified body recovered in the desert, said Goodyear police spokeswoman Lisa Kurtis. On Friday, Goodyear police said it was not in fact a body but was set up to look like a concealed body.
Detectives with Goodyear police and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office are both searching the area as well as other sites.
Goodyear police said the focus continues to be on finding Lee, but has also expanded to the recovery of a body and evidence.
Officers responded to 13606 W. Holly St. in Goodyear at 4:40 p.m. Wednesday after Lee's daughter, who lives in Tucson, told police she tried to reach her mother for several hours and was concerned about her whereabouts.
Howell has lived at his grandmother's home in a gated community for the past three years. Police said there was visible damage to the garage and found evidence inside that indicated possible foul play.
"It was smashed when I came home from golf around 11:30 yesterday and it was not that way at 8," said neighbor Don Morrison.
According to neighbors who spent much of the day swapping stories, Howell had anger issues, was known to climb an extension ladder to pound on doors and windows and had run-ins with the law.
Chandler Police arrested Howell on Wednesday after he allegedly stole an SUV outside an elementary school and led police on a chase.
Howell climbed in a vehicle in a parking lot at Kyrene Del Cielo around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday. A 12-year-old girl who was inside the SUV was able to jump out as Howell began to drive away, said Chandler police Detective Seth Tyler.
A Chandler police officer spotted the stolen vehicle traveling westbound on Ray Road and tried to get him to pull over around 54th Street.
Howell initially pulled into a parking lot but then rammed the police car and drove away, Tyler said. The officer chased him over Interstate 10 and into Phoenix to 50th Street, where Howell drove into a park, Tyler said.
Howell rammed the police car a second time in the park before he was finally taken into custody. Howell faces a number of felony charges, including stealing a vehicle, aggravated assault on a police officer, felony flight from law enforcement and aggravated DUI.
Howell made his initial court appearance Friday on the theft, assault and DUI charges.
Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News for updates on this developing story.
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