Cristie Schoen Codd's Devastating 2015 Death

If Cristie Schoen Codd were alive today, she'd be 46, and she might well be running her own farm-to-table cafe, per Food Network. Or perhaps she'd be cooking up sustainable fare for a star-studded Hollywood cast and crew, as she'd been doing for many years and was still doing at the time of her 2015 death, per NBC News. Perhaps if everything had lined up just right, Codd might have found a way to parlay the time she'd spent as a Season 8 contestant and member of Team Alton on "Food Network Star" into a gig as the host of her dream foodie television concept, "Homegrown with Cristie Schoen" (via FN).

Of course, Codd could have been a lot of things to a lot of people who knew and admired her, including mom to a daughter who'd be turning seven this year and the still-smitten wife of Joseph "J.T." Codd, whom she married in September 2014 in front of a crowd of family and friends in a small western North Carolina community of Leicester (per NBC News). But all of that came to an abrupt end on March 12, 2015, when Cristie, 38, who was five months pregnant with her first child, and J.T., 45, were murdered outside their Leicester home by a local man who referred to Cristie "a friend" and whose aunt by marriage was apparently acquainted with Cristie's father, per Citizen-Times.

Cristie Schoen Codd was just getting started

Born in Madrid, Spain, to "two hard-working military parents," William and Elizabeth Schoen, per her self-authored bio on IMDb, Cristie Schoen traveled all over the world throughout her childhood and became fluent in German. Still, she thought of Biloxi, Mississippi, as her childhood home, she told an interviewer in 2015 (via Wannabe TV Chef). She also had strong family ties to New Orleans (via IMDb). Although she honed her cooking skills as a proud latch-key kid, she learned a lot about cooking from her dad — especially Cajun cooking, which she considered her specialty (via her "Food Network Star" bio video).

A 2000 graduate of Louisiana State University with a double major in German and Performing Arts, Schoen trained as an actress in the Meisner method and performed on stage as well as in uncredited film and television roles (via IMDb). But over time, Schoen found herself increasingly on the other side of the camera, cooking for stars such as Will Smith, Ben Kingsley, and Harrison Ford (via Wannabe TV Chef). She formed her catering company in 2005, which she eventually dubbed "Tree Hugger Catering," which sought to cater in a sustainable and environmentally safe manner. In 2012, at the age of 35, Schoen was cast on Season 8 of "Food Network Star." 

Schoen married J.T. Codd in 2014, and the two were planning a family

After "Food Network Star," Cristie Schoen Codd continued cooking for celebrities on various sets. At the time of her death, the recently completed film, "Focus," starring Will Smith, had just been released; Codd had kept the cast and crew fed on set, according to EW. Self-described as outgoing, adventurous, athletic, and always up for a challenge (via her "Food Network Star" bio video) and yearning to make a difference in a small community, Schoen relocated to western North Carolina with Codd, a Hollywood stage tech. The two were married in September 2014 (via NBC News).

"That day of their wedding was the biggest thing that town had ever seen," a friend of the couple, Michael Mendez, who flew in from Los Angeles, told NBC News. "She was a firecracker. A bright light. He had tons of energy, too, but was calming at the same time. They were a charmed couple."

Then the couple made the acquaintance of Robert "Jason" Owens, a North Carolina native whose aunt by marriage, Cecilia, was a friend of Cristie's father, William, per Citizen-Times. It appears that Owens performed some work for the couple in his capacity as a home contractor, per CBS News, which might explain why Owens was outside the couple's house with his pickup truck on March 12 (via Nola) when the unthinkable happened.

A senseless killing with a devastating aftermath

On March 12, 2015, Jason Owens managed to get his pickup truck stuck in a ditch outside the home of Cristie Schoen Codd and her husband, J.T. Codd, according to Owens' account of the story (via The Washington Post). Attempting to extricate himself, Owens was at the wheel while the couple pitched in from outside the truck when Owens accidentally stepped on the gas. After running the couple over, he backed his truck up and did it again. Owens then proceeded to loot the Codds' house to make it look as if a robbery had occurred, used their kitchen to dismember their bodies, and then burned their remains in a wood stove on his own property.

The Codds were reported missing by family members on March 15. Soon after, authorities were tipped off that Jason Owens, who had been a person of interest in the 2000 disappearance of 18-year-old local resident Zebb Quinn, was seen behaving suspiciously while disposing of trash bags at a dumpster (via Citizen-Times). A homicide investigation ensued. Owens was arrested and confessed to the killings, claiming that, at the time, he was high on painkillers and fearful that if he turned himself in, he'd be implicated in Quinn's disappearance. Pleading guilty to three counts of murder at his 2017 trial in Buncombe County, North Carolina, Owens was sentenced to a minimum of 60 years in prison, per 7 News.

A tragic loss helps bring justice to another family

Upon hearing of Cristie Schoen Codd's death, Arnold Schwartzenegger posted to Twitter that "Cristie wasn't just part of the 'Terminator' crew, she brought us together at meals like a family." Her "Food Network Star" teammate, Justin Warner, posted to Facebook that Cristie was "radiant, positive, and kind as can be." Cristie wanted to make a difference in peoples' lives (via her "Food Network Star" bio video and NBC News), and her final act in life was to help a family friend who was having car trouble.

But even now, Cristie continues to make a difference. To wit, her senseless death and the subsequent conviction of her killer, Jason Owens, ultimately delivered closure to another grieving family.

In July 2022, Owens — who is never getting out of prison, according to the Buncombe County District Attorney (via CBS News), pleaded guilty to his role as an accessory after-the-fact in the murder of Zebb Quinn. Quinn's 2000 disappearance from the Leicester area had remained unsolved for more than two decades (via WLOS). Owens had long been a person of interest. Now, with apparently not much left to lose, he finally saw fit to confess he'd witnessed his late uncle shooting the boy in the back of the head. Tragically, however, Owen's motive in 2015 for turning an accident into a heinous murder may have been avoiding prosecution for Quinn's death.