Pregnant Food Network contestant Cristie Codd and her husband J.T. were brutally murdered, and their handyman has been arrested for the grisly crime. Subscribe now for an inside look at the shocking case, only in PEOPLE.
The man charged with the murders of a Food Network Star contestant and her husband admits he “stored and destroyed” the bodies of the victims at his mountain property outside Asheville, North Carolina, according to warrants released in the case.
Those warrants further reveal that J.T. Codd, the husband of Cristie Schoen Codd, a 2012 competitor on the cooking show, was killed when he was hit by his 2008 Dodge Ram pickup as it was being driven by the accused, Robert Jason Owens, who worked for the couple as a handyman contractor.
Authorities did not release a manner of death for the pregnant Cristie Schoen Codd, nor have they yet revealed a motive for the murders of the couple and their unborn child.
But they did say this: Although still awaiting confirmation on what they believe to be human remains located on Owens’s property nearby, “part of those were recovered from a wood stove at that residence,” Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan told reporters at a news conference Friday.
“Method of killing, motive, any kind of that thing – those are things we can’t get into,” said the sheriff.
Police believe the murders occurred “on or about” March 12, the sheriff said. Relatives of the couple raised alarms the following Sunday when they were unable to contact them.
Cristie Schoen Codd, 38, a film-set caterer with a handful of credits as an actress and stuntwoman, and J.T. Codd, 45, who worked behind the scenes on film and TV sets as a grip, had purchased 36 acres outside of Asheville two or three years ago, according to friends, and were working toward creating a self-sustaining farm to support their eventual goal of opening a farm-to-table caf .
They were married last October at the community center near their home in Leicester, at a joyous ceremony where the large number of guests included the man now accused in their deaths.
But while friends of the couple tell PEOPLE that J.T. Codd had a long history of extending a hand to people in need, many of those friends were put off by Owens, 36, who displayed a “bad energy,” says Michael Mendez, 52, of Sherman Oaks, California.
“The person that did this, he was out of work,” says Mendez. After J.T. hired Owens to assist with projects that would include clearing trees and building a well house on the property, “he became sort of like a handyman-helper.”
Dirk Long, 44, Cristie’s partner in Tree Hugger Catering, says that as recently as the Monday before the murders, Owens was working on their property to help balance a stackable washer-dryer in the couple’s home. “They set him up in business,” with J.T. fronting the man about $6,000 to $7,000 so that he could buy supplies and tools to build the under skirting for mobile homes in the area, he says. And they gave Owens a key to the storage shed on the property where J.T. kept his own tools.
“J.T. was always trying to help the guy who was down on his luck,” says Long. “I said, ‘You can’t do that in the mountains of western North Carolina.’ My personal opinion is, he came there and probably asked for more money, and Cristie put her foot down.”
Authorities zeroed in on Owens after a caller reported a man dumping items – later revealed to include Cristie Schoen Codd’s ID – “in a very suspicious way” at a dumpster on the night the couple were reported missing. They interviewed Owens about 1:30 a.m. on Monday, and he admitted to taking the recovered items, the sheriff said.
Warrants were obtained and led to a Monday night search of Owens’s property, where authorities discovered what they believed to be the human remains.
He has not confessed, the sheriff said. Indeed, the detail of J.T. Codd’s death came not from Owens himself, but rather through an interview with Owens’s wife, Samantha, who said “he had told her that he was driving the 2008 Dodge Ram that belonged to the victim when he struck and killed the male victim” at the Codds’ property, according to the search warrant.
Owens has not yet entered a plea after being arrested on two counts of felony first-degree murder, felony murder of an unborn child, breaking and entering, and larceny.
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