A Leicester man is in the Buncombe County Jail without bond after he was arrested on several murder charges in a case that’s captured national attention for the victims’ role in Hollywood films and an appearance on the eighth season of Food Network Star.
Robert Jason Owens, 37, of Owens Cove Road in Leicester, was arrested March 16, charged with two counts of first-degree murder, murder of an unborn child, breaking and entering and larceny. He is suspected of killing two neighbors, Cristie Schoen-Codd, 38, and her husband, Joseph “JT” Codd, 45, and burning their bodies in a wood stove. Schoen-Codd was pregnant when she was killed.
The case began to unravel with phone calls to the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office from Codd family members requesting a welfare check at the couple’s Leicester home on Hookers Gap Road, according to reports. Search warrants state, Schoen-Codd’s father, Bill Schoen, informed law enforcement that his daughter never arrived in Mississippi as planned. Officers responded and were able to gain entry into the couple’s home with the help of a neighbor who had a key. Inside, deputies found Schoen-Codd’s purse and Codd’s wallet.
The evening before the welfare check, Buncombe County officers received a report of a suspicious person dumping items on Donna Drive in Candler. Law enforcement arrived to find Owens with personal items belonging to Schoen-Codd.
During an interview with deputies, Owens not only told officers he broke into the couple’s residence and stole the items he was dumping; he also confessed to destroying and storing their bodies, according to court records.
The suspects wife, Samantha Owens, told police that her husband told her he was driving a 2008 Dodge Ram that belonged to the victim “when he struck and killed (Codd)” at their home on Hookers Gap Road, according to reports. Law enforcement officers immediately seized Codd’s truck.
Police also obtained search warrants for Owens’ property. In a press conference on March 20, Buncombe Bounty Sheriff Van Duncan announced that human remains had been found in a wood-burning stove. The remains were sent to Wake Forest Baptist Center for positive identification.
Duncan did not offer any motive for the slayings, stating it is “an on-going investigation.” Other details of the investigation were also omitted from the press conference. Owens and the Codd’s live about a mile away from each other, and Owens supposedly did home repair work for the couple.
“My number one goal is at this point in time is to make sure our agency follows this up with a very detailed, thorough investigation,” Duncan said. “And also, we don’t want to do anything that would prejudice or cause problems with the prosecution on down the road.”
District Attorney of the 28th Judicial District Todd Williams said Owens faces two sentencing options for the first-degree murder charges: life without parole, or the death sentence. The maximum sentence for the death of an unborn baby is life without parole.
The couple was known among the Hollywood film scene. Schoen-Codd was loved by many as a celebrity chef contestant on the eighth season of Food Network Star. She also had small roles in several films and ran a catering company for movie productions.
Owens is being held in the Buncombe County Jail without bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, April 7.
In an Asheville Citizen Time’s article published online on March 23, writer Tonya Maxwell chronicles Owen’s troubled criminal history and the mysterious disappearance of a man last seen with Owens in 2000. The last known whereabouts of Zebb Quinn, a co-worker of Owens, is more than 15-years ago when he parted ways with Owens on Long Shoals Road (according to Owen’s tale of events), and hasn’t been seen since. Owens was named a suspect, but never charged.
A memorial page for “JT” Codd, his wife Cristie and their unborn baby has been established on Facebook.