GRAPHIC: Buncombe Co. man admits to killing, dismembering pregnant TV chef, husband

JT and Cristie Codd
JT and Cristie Codd(file/FOX Carolina News)
Updated: Apr. 27, 2017 at 5:00 PM EDT
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (FOX Carolina) - The Buncombe County man charged with murder in the deaths of a TV chef, her husband, and unborn child pleaded guilty to killing the victims and dismembering their bodies during a hearing Thursday and was sentenced to prison.

Robert Jason Owens admitted to killing Cristie Schoen Codd, 38, Joseph “JT” Codd, 45, and the couple’s unborn child, Skylar, on March 12, 2015. Investigators said Cristie was five months pregnant at the time of the killings.

Cristie was a contestant on season 8 of “The Next Food Network Star” and her husband JT worked in the film industry.

The couple lived on Hookers Gap Road in Leicester. Deputies began investigating after the couple was reported missing on March 15, 2015. The investigation led deputies to Owens after reports surfaced that he was seen dumping items belonging to the Codds in a dumpster on Donna Drive in the days following their disappearance.

Robert Jason Owens
Robert Jason Owens(Buncombe Co. Detention Center)

Owens, who often worked as a handyman for the Codds, was initially arrested on charges of breaking and entering and larceny after deputies said items stolen from the Codd home were found in Owens’ possession.

During Thursday’s hearing, prosecutors said Owens was seen selling items belonging to the couple at a pawn shop and flea market.

In an interview on March 16, 2015, Owens reportedly admitted to running over the couple with a truck. He told investigators the vehicle had become stuck in a nearby creek and the Codds were standing in front of his truck to help when he accidentally hit the accelerator and ran over both of them.

Owens said he carried Cristie Codd’s body into the house and attempted to render aid in the living room but she passed away. When he returned outside, he said he found JT Codd already dead.

Owens reportedly told investigators he was not supposed to be driving due to a previous conviction and was afraid of facing jail time, so he carried JT Codd’s body to his double-wide trailer where he burned it in a wood stove.

The following day, prosecutors said Owens returned to the Codds’ home, moved Cristie Codd’s body to the shower and cut it into pieces. He placed the pieces in plastic bags and took them to his wood stove to be burned.

After their deaths, Owens told investigators he wanted to make their deaths look like a robbery-gone-wrong, so he began selling their belongings and raided their wallets. During the days after their disappearance, Owens reportedly admitted to sending texts from Cristie Codd’s phone to loved ones saying the couple was sick so people wouldn’t ask questions.

With the money from sale of their belongings, Owens reportedly filled up the truck with gas and took his wife out to dinner.

“I’m not a bad guy,” Owens reportedly told police during the initial interview, repeating that he didn’t intend to hurt any of his friends.

Prosecutors said they are skeptical of Owens’ relationship with the Codds, given the horrific treatment of their remains.

Owens entered a guilty plea on three counts of second-degree murder and two counts of dismemberment. Prosecutors were initially seeking the death penalty but accepted a plea deal for a lesser sentence.

The judge sentenced Owens to a minimum of 59.5 years and a maximum of 59.5 years in prison.District Attorney Todd Williams released this statement after the plea hearing:

“The murders of Christie Schoen, J.T. Codd and their unborn child, Skylar, are among the most disturbing killings in Buncombe County history. A newly-wed and expectant couple’s lives were tragically cut short by their killer, Jason Owens. Because there are no surviving witnesses and Jason Owens had exclusive control of the crime scene for several days, and he had nearly completed the gruesome project of cremating his victims’ remains, we will never know many of the facts surrounding the Codds’ deaths. What we do know is that through both a solid investigation and a competent interrogation by law enforcement, Jason Owens confessed to being responsible for killing the Codds and further admitted to dismembering and burning their physical remains in his wood-stove. This truly horrific crime presented many challenges, but, in the end, the victims’ families fully support this resolution in that it holds Jason Owens accountable for precisely what he admitted doing.

These pleas, signed, sworn and entered in court today, deliver a punishment that is tantamount to a sentence of death in prison for Jason Owens. These pleas shut the door on Owens’ attempts to deny responsibility for these crimes, will lock him away from society, and prevent the endless cycle of appeal and the emotional toll that would take on the victims’ families. Through this plea, these cases are resolved and the State need not forever retain the victims’ remains in case of some possible future court hearing. Their ashes may be soon released to their families as they should be. I have met and discussed today’s plea with the victims’ loved ones on several occasions; all this is done in keeping with their wishes.

Anyone who wished to sensationalize this tragic, senseless loss or be privy to every detail of the worst day in one family’s life will be disappointed. My sympathy, however, is with the family, and I respect and support their desire for airtight closure of this case. I wish the families of Christie, JT, and Skylar peace and privacy as they continue to cope as best as anyone can cope with the irreparable loss they have suffered.”

District Attorney Todd Williams

The Schoen family released the following statement on behalf of Cristie, saying they are “extremely upset and angry” at the outcome of the hearing. They said they will never stop fight for justice for Cristie, JT and baby Skylar.

Deputies said Owens was also a suspect in the January 2000 disappearance of Asheville teenager Zebb Quinn at one point. Owens was never charged in that case and it remains unsolved.