Suspect in Food Network Star Killing Was 'Person of Interest' in 2000 Cold Case

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The North Carolina handyman charged with killing a Food Network star, her husband and their unborn baby was a "person of interest" in the 2000 disappearance of a college student, police told NBC News.

Robert Jason Owens, 36, of Leicester in western North Carolina, was charged Monday in the disappearance and deaths of 38-year-old Cristie Schoen Codd, who was five months pregnant, and husband Joseph "J.T." Codd, 45. Owens faces two counts of felony first-degree murder and felony murder of an unborn child.

Schoen Codd’s brother, Tim Vitale, told TODAY that she was a "free spirit" who loved "everyone that she met." He said he couldn't understand why someone would want to kill the couple, who had just gotten married in September.

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Police believe they found human remains on Owens' property Monday, which were sent to a lab for analysis. Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan said during a news conference Friday that the possible human remains were found in a wood stove.

Owens told police that he stored and destroyed the bodies, but didn't admit to killing the couple, whom he did contracting work for, Duncan said. His wife, however, told investigators that Owens said he had struck and killed J.T. Codd with a truck, the sheriff added.

But this isn't the first time Owens has been eyed after a disappearance. In January 2000, he was a "person of interest" when 18-year-old college student Zebb Quinn went missing from Asheville, North Carolina, a Buncombe County sheriff's spokeswoman said. Quinn is presumed dead, but his body has never been found, according to investigators.

Owens made an initial statement to investigators about that case, but then refused to cooperate, according to NBC affiliate WYFF. He is thought to be the last person who saw the young man alive, but was never charged.

Asheville officials said Friday that Owens' arrest is "a huge event in the Zebb Quinn case."


— Elisha Fieldstadt