Arizona Family Cashes Checks for Nearly Two Years After Killing Grandmother

April 11, 2019 Updated: April 11, 2019

An Arizona mother and daughter are in police custody after allegedly killing a grandmother in 2017 and continuing to cash her “numerous monthly payment checks.”

Tara Aven, 46, and daughter Briar Aven, 24, were arrested on April 9 on suspicion of having murdered Sandra Aven, AZ Central reported.

Sandra Aven was Tara’s mother and Briar’s grandmother. The two were also the victim’s next-door neighbors in Prescott.

Tara Aven (L) and Briar Aven in police booking photos. (Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office)

Welfare Check

Police said a Prescott resident contacted them to express concern that he hadn’t seen the elderly neighbor in “quite some time,” AZ Central reported.

Authorities performing a welfare check questioned Tara and Briar Aven, who police said gave conflicting accounts.

A property search then led police to the discovery of an “obviously deceased person.”

The two suspects in the course of later interrogations allegedly admitted to killing Sandra Aven in 2017.

Since the elderly woman’s murder, her daughter and granddaughter continued to collect rent checks from several properties Sandra Aven owned and rented out, ABC15 reported.

Argument Turned Deadly

The elderly woman’s slaying was allegedly prompted by a confrontation with her granddaughter over a fraudulent student loan.

The 77-year-old victim, who lived next door to the two women accused of her murder, had been struck in the head at least 20 times with a hammer, ABC15 reported. She was also choked.

Her body was hidden in a rug, according to the report, and attempts were made to mask the smell from the decomposing corpse with kitty litter.

“For Prescott, this is pretty huge. This kind of stuff does not really go down in Prescott,” a neighbor said, according to ABC15 Arizona.

Tara and Briar were both booked into to the Yavapai County Jail, according to the New York Post.

Both women face charges of murder, fraud, and evidence tampering.

Facts About Crime in the U.S.

Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past 25 years, according to both the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

The rate of violent crimes fell by 49 percent between 1993 and 2017, according to the FBI’s UCR, which only reflects crimes reported to the police.

The violent crime rate dropped by 74 percent between 1993 and 2017, according to the BJS’s NCVS, which takes into account both crimes that have been reported to the police and those that have not.

“From 1993 to 2017, the rate of violent victimization declined 74 percent, from 79.8 to 20.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older,” the U.S. Department of Justice stated.

Both studies are based on data up to and including 2017, the most recent year for which complete figures are available.

The FBI recently released preliminary data for 2018. According to the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January–June 2018, violent crime rates in the United States dropped by 4.3 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2017.

crime rates
Rates of violent crime in the United States in 1993 compared with 2017, according to data from the FBI (L) and BJS (R). (The Epoch Times)

While the overall rate of violent crime has seen a steady downward drop since its peak in the 1990s, there have been several upticks that bucked the trend.

Between 2014 and 2016, the murder rate increased by more than 20 percent, to 5.4 per 100,000 residents, from 4.4, according to an Epoch Times analysis of FBI data. The last two-year period that the rate soared so quickly was between 1966 and 1968.

Property Crime

The property crime rate fell by 50 percent between 1993 and 2017, according to the FBI, and by 69 percent according to BJS.

According to the FBI’s preliminary figures for the first half of 2018, property crime rates in the United States dropped by 7.2 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2017.

As with violent crime, the FBI survey only takes into account crime reported to the police, while the BJS figures include reported and non-reported crime.

Public Perception About Crime

Despite falling long-term trends in both violent crime and property crime, opinion surveys repeatedly show Americans believe that crime is up.

The vast majority of Gallup polls taken since 1993 show that over 60 percent of Americans believe there is more crime in the United States on a national scale compared to the previous year.

Pew Research Surveys show similar findings. A survey in late 2016 revealed that 57 percent of registered voters said crime in the nation as a whole increased since 2008, despite both FBI and BJS data showing double-digit drops in violent and property crimes.

Perceptions differed on a national versus local level.

Surveys of perceptions of crime levels on a local scale showed that fewer than 50 percent of respondents in every single Gallup survey done since 1996 believed that crime in their area had risen compared to the previous year.


The BJS National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is the nation’s primary source of information on criminal victimization.

According to the BSJ, data for the NCVS is obtained annually from “a nationally representative sample of about 135,000 household interviews, composed of nearly 225,000 interviews of persons within those households, on the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States.”

The NCVS collects information on crimes both reported and not reported to police.

The FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR) is based on crimes reported to police in approximately 18,000 jurisdictions around the country.

“The UCR Program compiles data from monthly law enforcement reports or individual crime incident records transmitted directly to the FBI or to centralized agencies that then report to the FBI,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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