A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to killing a married couple and their unborn child, then dismembering the bodies and burning them in a wood-burning stove.
Former Food Network TV show contestant Cristie Schoen Codd, 38, and her husband, Joseph “JT” Codd, 45, were reported missing on March 14, 2015, reports WSPA.
Robert Jason Owens has confessed to killing the couple, reports CBS News.
Owens worked as a home contractor for the Codds, and became a suspect after a resident saw him placing large trash bags in a dumpster, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports.
A few days later, the couple’s dismembered bodies were found charred in a wood-burning stove on the suspect’s property, according to investigators.
Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams said the deaths were “among the most disturbing killings in Buncombe County history.”
“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,” said Williams in a statement released to WSPA. “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.”
Owens told investigators that he did not intend to kill the Codds. Rather, he claimed to have accidentally ran over them as they were trying to get his truck out of a ditch.
He apparently expected to be accused of the crime, because he explained that his elaborate attempt to dispose of the bodies was done because he feared going to jail. He also admitted to selling their personal belongings and moving their cars to make it appear as if they were victims of a robbery.
In court, his attorney said that Owens was on prescribed medication for depression and was heavily impaired.
In exchange for pleading guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and two counts of dismembering remains, Owens will be spared the death penalty.
However, he will serve a minimum of 59 1/2 years in prison, which is “tantamount to a sentence of death in prison,” observed Williams.
The Codd’s family was not forgiving. In statement issued to the media they said: “We can only hope that he suffers for the remainder of his life on Earth and again as he rots in hell.”
Prior to moving to North Carolina, the Codds worked in Hollywood. Cristie, who provided catering services on film sets, was a contestant on the eighth season of reality cooking show “Food Network Star.” JT worked behind the scenes on TV and movie sets.