Jason Eric Howell update: Goodyear man gets prison term in grandma's killing

GOODYEAR, AZ - A Goodyear man who pleaded guilty to killing his grandmother by beating her with a shovel and slitting her throat over her strict curfew rules and how much she charged him for rent was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in prison.

Jason Eric Howell, 40, also was sentenced to lifetime supervised probation after previously pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

At the same change-of-plea hearing two months ago in Maricopa County Superior Court, Howell also pleaded guilty to child abuse and aggravated assault charges in another case.

Howell originally was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, hindering prosecution and abandoning a body.

Howell led investigators to a desert area near Gila Bend, about 75 miles southwest of Phoenix, where the body of Helen Jean Lee, 78, was found on Nov. 2, Goodyear police said.

She was reported missing days earlier after a relative called police concerned that she couldn't reach Lee.

Detectives found what they described as a bloody crime scene inside the woman's Goodyear home.

Authorities said Howell had lived at his grandmother's home in a gated community for the past three years.

Howell first attempted to kill Lee while she slept, but he stopped when she awoke, court records show.

A few days later, Howell allegedly attacked his grandmother with a shovel and then slit her throat before disposing of her body in the desert.

Goodyear police said they had responded to calls at Lee's home numerous times in the past as Howell had hallucinations and displayed "erratic behavior and violent tendencies."

The same day that Lee was reported missing, Howell was arrested on multiple charges including assaulting a police officer and kidnapping.

Police in Chandler, about 30 miles east of Goodyear, said Howell stole an SUV that was idling outside an elementary school.

A 12-year-old girl in the backseat managed to escape the moving vehicle and suffered minor injuries.

Howell then led authorities on a chase that ended after he rammed a Chandler police officer's patrol car. He later told authorities that he was drunk and high on methamphetamine at the time.

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