Goodyear woman still missing; evidence found near Gila Bend

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Helen Jean Lee By Jennifer Thomas Helen Jean Lee By Jennifer Thomas
Jason Howell By Mike Gertzman Jason Howell By Mike Gertzman
Jason Howell By Mike Gertzman Jason Howell By Mike Gertzman

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Goodyear detectives continue to investigate the disappearance of a 78-year-old woman after unspecified evidence was found near Gila Bend.

Helen Jean Lee's daughter, who lives in Tucson, reported her missing on Wednesday. Police officers responded to Lee's home near McDowell and Litchfield roads where they found evidence that indicated possible foul play.

Police searched an area west of Gila Bend on Thursday after speaking with Lee's 40-year-old grandson, Jason Howell, who is considered a person of interest in the case. It had been reported that an unidentified body had been found in the area.

"What was initially believed to be and set up to look like a concealed body found in the area has turned out to be additional evidence of a crime in this case, but not a body," police spokeswoman Lisa Kutis said in news release Friday morning.

Detectives have not ruled out that this may be a homicide investigation.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is helping Goodyear detectives with a search of the area as well as other sites.

Howell, who lives with Lee, was arrested in Chandler Wednesday night after police said he stole an SUV outside an elementary school near Ray Road and McClintock Drive. A 12-year-old girl was in the back seat and managed to jump out of the vehicle.

Lee's vehicle was found abandoned in the area of the school.

Police released a photo of Lee on Friday. She is described as 5 feet 2 inches tall, 145 pounds with hazel eyes and brown hair.