ASHEVILLE, NC (WSPA/AP) – A plea deal will allow a man charged with murder in a couple’s deaths to avoid the death penalty.
Robert Jason Owens, 37, has pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and two counts of dismembering bodies.
Under the terms of Thursday’s plea deal, Owens had to admit to killing 38-year-old Cristie Schoen Codd, 45-year-old Joseph “J.T.” Codd and their unborn daughter in March 2015. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of dismembering human remains.
The judge has accepted the plea and sentenced him to a minimum of 59 1/2 years and maximum of 74 1/2 years. The plea takes the death penalty off the table.
As part of the plea, the robbery with a weapon charged was dropped.
Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams says the Codds’ family members also approved the arrangement.
Detectives said in search warrants that Owens admitted to storing and destroying the victims’ bodies after accidentally running them over with a pickup truck.
Owens was arrested in March of 2015 after investigators say he murdered his Leicester neighbors and their unborn child.
Remains of Christie and J.T Codd were found in a wood stove on Owens’ property.
Christie Codd appeared on ‘Food Network Star.’
In August of 2015, the Buncombe County District Attorney filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty.
Owen said JT was working on his truck and he accidentally ran over JT and Christie.
He was worried about being arrested and going back to prison, so he dismembered both, burned them, and then disposed of them in a dumpster.
Owens then sold their personal things and moved their cars to make it look like a robbery.
He also texted Christie’s family and friends with her phone. He admitted all of this on March 16th
Owens was questioned – but never charged – in the disappearance and presumed murder of Zebb Quinn, 18. Quinn disappeared in January 2000.
Asheville police detectives said Owens was the last person to see Quinn, who was an acquaintance of Owens’.
Buncombe Co. District Attorney Todd Williams released the following statement:
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.