Jason Owens: Secrets and Murder of a Media Star

Last week’s crime was bribing Chicago White Sox players to lose the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. The “Black Sox” scandal changed Major League Baseball forever. This week, we consider the case of Jason Owens. In 2015, Owens murdered Food Network Star contestant Cristie Schoen and her husband, Joseph “J.T.” Codd. It was not the first time he killed, as we shall see.

Jason Owens

Robert Jason Owens was born to a single mother on March 18, 1980 (other sources show a 1978 birthdate). His birth certificate doesn’t list a father. Twenty years later, he lived in the Ashville, North Carolina area. People he met considered him unremarkable, though perhaps a bit rough around the edges.

Robert Jason Owens (Ashville Citizen Times)
Robert Jason Owens (Ashville Citizen-Times)

But there was another side to Jason Owens that most people didn’t see. Law enforcement knew him well. He had a lengthy criminal record related to his history of drug and alcohol abuse. His offenses included multiple convictions for DUI, drunk and disorderly, resisting arrest, and fleeing at high speed to elude police. In one instance in 2002, Owens tried to get away from a cruiser at speeds exceeding 120 miles per hour. The chase ended when he hit a mailbox, flipping his truck.

Cristie Schoen and J.T. Codd

Cristie Schoen was a military brat (her father was in the Air Force). She developed a love of cooking, specializing in the Southern and Cajun recipes popular in Biloxi, Mississippi, where she grew up. Cristie often cooked with her dad, forming a tight father-daughter bond. After she graduated from college in Louisiana, Cristie packed up and moved to a one-room apartment in Marina del Ray, California. Since the apartment lacked a kitchen, she prepared her meals on an outdoor barbecue.

Cristie Schoen Codd and Joseph "J.T." Codd
Cristie Schoen Codd and Joseph “J.T.” Codd

At the time, Cristie aspired to be an actress. In 2012, she competed on the eighth season of the television show Food Network Star. Cristie was the first contestant eliminated, partly, she felt because her passion for cooking came across as “angry.”

Murder victim Cristie Schoen Codd
Murder victim Cristie Schoen Codd

Joseph “J.T.” Codd grew up in Gaithersburg, Maryland, before moving to the west coast. In Venice, California, he opened his home to the unfortunate. J.T. made his living as a key grip in the film industry. Between jobs, he liked backpacking in exotic locales like Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Thailand.

Murder Victim Joseph "J.T." Codd
Murder Victim Joseph “J.T.” Codd

J.T. and Cristie met and became friends. Soon, though, they found they were perfect together. They married under a white tent on a North Carolina mountainside in October 2014. Guests at the wedding thought one person didn’t fit in: Jason Owens. J.T. had befriended Owens, who was down on his luck and working as a handyman at the time. J.T. and Cristie hired him to help out.

J.T. and Cristie Codd loved the outdoors
J.T. and Cristie Codd loved the outdoors

Not long after their marriage, Cristie discovered she was pregnant. An ultrasound revealed the baby was a girl the couple decided to name Skylar.

Jason Owens Murders the Codds

On March 14, 2015, family members reported J.T. and Cristie missing from their home in Leicester, North Carolina. Following a tip about “suspicious” dumping, police found Cristie’s ID and other objects in a trash container. Following the trail led them to Jason Owens, who admitted to taking the items recovered from the trash. A search of Owens’ home turned up what appeared to be human remains.

Robert Jason Owens at the time of his arrest for the murders of the Codds
Robert Jason Owens at the time of his arrest for the murders of the Codds

Owens eventually confessed to killing both J.T. and Cristie. He claimed their deaths were accidental, that he ran over them while driving J.T.’s truck. His story doesn’t ring true since it fails to explain why he dismembered the bodies and tried to burn them. (Investigators found evidence of human remains in a wood stove in a trailer that belonged to Owens’ deceased grandmother.)

Jason Owens stands during his first court appearance on charges related to the Codd slayings (Katie Bailey/Ashville Citizen-Times)
Jason Owens stands during his first court appearance on charges related to the Codd slayings (Katie Bailey/Ashville Citizen-Times)

On April 27, 2017, Jason Owens pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the deaths of J.T., Cristie, and Skylar Codd and to two counts of dismembering remains. He will serve a minimum of 59 ½ years in prison up to a maximum of 74 ½ years.

Jason Owens and the Disappearance of Zebb Quinn

At about 9:00 p.m. on January 2, 2000, 18-year-old Zebb Quinn finished his shift in the electronics department of an Ashville Walmart. He had plans to go with a coworker to see about purchasing a car in Leicester. The “friend” was Jason Owens. No one saw Webb again.

Jason Owens' first victim, Zebb Quinn (he was in ROTC in high school)
Jason Owens’ first victim, Zebb Quinn (he was in ROTC in high school)

Police questioned Owens about Quinn’s disappearance and suspected he murdered the teen. However, detectives were not able to find enough evidence to charge Owens. Investigators continued to consider him a suspect, but the case stalled.

Seventeen years later, in the wake of the Codd murders, the legal system moved forward. Zebb Quinn was now presumed to be dead. On July 10, 2017, a grand jury indicted Owens for first-degree murder in his death.

Jason Owens prison photo ca. 2022 (North Carolina Department of Corrections)
Jason Owens prison photo ca. 2022 (North Carolina Department of Corrections)

Owens told a strange story, blaming his uncle, Gene Owens, for killing Quinn. He claimed that his uncle forced him to help dispose of the body by dismembering and burning it. (Note the similarity to what he did to J.T. and Cristie Codd). Rather than go to trial, Owens pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. He received a sentence of ten years, which he will serve concurrently with those in the Codd case.

Epilogue

Jason Owens currently (2023) resides in the Alexander Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in Taylorsville, North Carolina. The only way he will leave prison is in a pine box.

Episode 169 of the Southern Fried True Crime podcast, The Vanishing of Zebb Quinn, features the cases of Zebb and the Codds.

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