ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WSPA) – Robert Jason Owens has pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and two counts of dismembering bodies.
The judge sentenced Owens to a minimum of 60 years in prison.
The plea took the death penalty off the table.
As part of the plea, a robbery with a weapon charged was dropped.
Owens was arrested in March 2015 after investigators say he murdered his Leicester neighbors and their unborn child.
The remains of Cristie and J.T Codd were found in a wood stove on Owens’ property.
Cristie Codd appeared on “Food Network Star.”
In August 2015, the Buncombe County District Attorney filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty.
Owens said he accidentally ran over JT and Cristie while JT was working on his truck.
He was worried about being arrested and going back to prison, so he dismembered both their bodies before burning and disposing of their remains in a dumpster.
Owens then sold the victims’ personal items and moved their cars to make it look like a robbery.
He also texted Cristie’s family and friends with her phone. He admitted all of this on March 16.
In court on Thursday, Owens apologized to the victims’ families.
Owens was questioned – but never charged – in the disappearance and presumed murder of Zebb Quinn. The 18-year-old disappeared in January 2000.
Asheville police detectives said Owens was the last person to see Quinn, who was an acquaintance of Owens’.
Buncombe County 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.”