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State seeks death penalty in murder of Food Network contestant, husband

LEICESTER, N.C. - A former home contractor charged with murdering a pregnant Food Network contestant and her husband could face the death penalty if convicted, reports CBS affiliate WSPA.

Robert Jason Owens, 36, is charged with killing Cristie Schoen Codd, 38, her husband Joseph "JT" Codd, 45, and Schoen Codd's unborn child. The couple was reported missing March 14 from their home in Leicester, North Carolina - west of Asheville - after family members couldn't get in contact with them, reports CBS affiliate WSPA.

Days later, their dismembered remains were found in a wood stove on Owens' property, investigators said.

Monday, the Buncombe County District Attorney filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for Owens, the station reported.

Cristie Codd was a contestant on Season 8 of the "Food Network Star" and provided catering services on film sets, reports the station. JT Codd worked behind the scenes on TV and movie sets. Friends said they met when they spent four seasons working together on the television show, "Without a Trace," reported the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Officials have said that the couple hired Owens, reportedly a neighbor, to do work on their home. Prosecutors say Owens robbed, assaulted and threatened the couple with weapons before killing them, reports the paper. Prosecutors say Owens admitted to hitting and killing J.T. Codd with a pickup truck, but there's been no information released about how Cristie Codd died, according to the Citizen-Times.

Owens is also reportedly accused of trying to conceal evidence by dismembering the couple's remains.

He is also the primary person of interest in the 15-year-old cold case disappearance of student Zebb Quinn, according to the Asheville Police Department, though he has not been charged.

According to the Citizen-Times, Owens was seen with the 18-year-old Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College student before he vanished on Jan. 2, 2000. The disappearance is one of the region's most baffling cold cases, reports the paper.

According to the paper, Quinn worked with Owens, 21 at the time, at an Asheville Walmart. The two had plans to go see a car for sale together that night after work, reports the Citizen-Times.

Owens reportedly told police the two had gotten into a fender-bender and that Quinn promised to pay for the damages before saying he had to leave, and driving away.

Two weeks later, investigators found Quinn's car abandoned in the parking lot of a restaurant.

A search warrant authorized investigators to draw hair, blood and saliva samples from Owens, but he was never charged in the case, reports the paper.

"It's certainly a significant event that our primary person of interest has been arrested for two counts of first-degree murder and the murder of an unborn child," Sgt. Dave Romick, a spokesman for the Asheville Police Department, told Crimesider in March.