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Prescott slaying victim's identity confirmed; death was earlier than admitted
Cause of death was blunt force trauma

Briar Lynn Aven, left, and Tara Lynn Aven are accused of murdering the family matriarch, leaving her body in the home on the 600 block of Country Club Drive for two-and-a-half years and cashing her checks afterward. (Prescott PD/Courtesy)
Prescott Police Department/Courtesy

Briar Lynn Aven, left, and Tara Lynn Aven are accused of murdering the family matriarch, leaving her body in the home on the 600 block of Country Club Drive for two-and-a-half years and cashing her checks afterward. (Prescott PD/Courtesy)

Autopsy results have positively identified Sandra Aven, 77, as the victim in the Prescott murder case that came to light on April 9.

Blunt force trauma has been confirmed as the cause of her death, which took place more than a year earlier than previously thought, according to officials.

Aven’s heavily decomposed body was found in her home along Country Club Drive on the morning of Tuesday, April 9, after a concerned resident asked police to conduct a welfare check on her.

The resident rents an apartment owned by Aven and told police he had not seen her for quite some time, according to a Prescott Police Department (PPD) booking record.

Officers spoke to Sandra’s daughter, 46-year-old Tara Aven, and granddaughter, 24-year-old Briar Aven, at Sandra’s home. Both provided inconsistent stories on Sandra’s whereabouts, so officers decided to enter the home, PPD reported. They found Sandra’s body wrapped in a rug on a bedroom floor, according to the booking record. Cat litter had been spread around the body, and a small fan was blowing air out an open window to in an attempt conceal the smell of decay, the report stated.

After questioning, Briar admitted to killing her grandmother by striking her on the head with a hammer “at least 20 times” and then choking her “to be sure Sandra was dead,” according to the booking record.

Briar told officers she killed Sandra because of a conflict over a student loan. Sandra reportedly had learned Briar had obtained the loan fraudulently and threatened to notify authorities about it, causing Briar to become enraged and take the deadly action, the report states.

Tara admitted to knowing about the slaying and agreeing to help Briar cover it up. They also admitted to forging Sandra’s signature for months after the death to cash rent checks made out to Sandra from renters of properties Sandra owned, PPD reported.

The women initially told police the death took place in late 2017, but evidence has since shown it took place in the fall of 2016, PPD reported.

Both women remain in custody at the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde. Tara is being held on a $1 million cash-only bond, while Briar is being held without bail. They both face charges of first-degree premeditated murder, tampering with physical evidence and fraudulent schemes (all felonies).

“The case is still being actively investigated and will be for some time,” PPD spokesperson Dave Fuller said.

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein, email him at mefrein@prescottaz.com or call him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1105.

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