PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona man charged with killing his grandmother beat the woman with a shovel before slitting her throat because he was upset with her strict curfew rules and how much she charged him for rent while he lived with her, according to court documents released Wednesday.
Jason Eric Howell, 40, also told authorities he first attempted to kill 78-year-old Helen Jean Lee while she slept, but stopped when she awoke, the records state. A few days later, police said, he attacked her with a shovel then slit her throat before disposing of her body in the desert.
Howell is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, hindering prosecution and abandoning a body. He was held Wednesday in the jail's psychiatric unit and was unavailable for comment, said Sgt. Brandon Jones of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. A public defender has not yet been appointed to represent him.
Police said Howell led investigators to the desert near Gila Bend, about 75 miles southwest of Phoenix, where Lee's body was found Saturday. She was reported missing last week 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.
The same day Lee was reported missing, Oct. 30, Howell was arrested on multiple charges, including assaulting a police officer and kidnapping. Police in Chandler, about 30 miles east of Goodyear, say 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, according to a police report. Howell then led authorities on a chase that ended after he rammed an officer's patrol car. Detectives say Howell told police he was drunk and high on methamphetamine.
He remained held Wednesday on a $1 million bond in the murder case. Police say 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."
Howell is set for a court appearance next week.