At first, it seemed Cristie Schoen Todd and her husband, Joseph Todd, had disappeared into thin air. It didn't make sense; police went to their home in North Carolina, finding no signs of the couple, or where they might have gone. Not long after, alerts went out within the community, even prompting , asking anyone with information about where they went — or what happened to them — to step forward.
Cristie, who had appeared on season 8 of Food Network Star, was pregnant and dreamed of opening a café in Leicester, where they lived. There was no reason for her and her husband to abruptly leave town — without their cars — and stop answering family members' calls. Something didn't add up.
On March 16, 2015, following a neighbor's tip, a man was arrested and the couple's family got heartbreaking news: Cristie, Joseph and their unborn child, Skylar, were dead. Two full years later, that man has pled guilty, revealing what happened that night as a way to avoid the death penalty.
The man in question is Robert Jason Owens, a 37-year-old home contractor who'd worked for the couple and called He'd been having car trouble, and while the Todds were helping him with it, Owens accidentally hit the gas, running over them. Out of fear he'd go to jail, he dismembered their bodies and burned them in his wood-burning stove, he told police. Owens then took things even further, moving the couple's cars and pawning some of their belongings so it'd look like a robbery, according to the .
His attorney says Owens' actions — and his attempt at covering it up — were the result of him being "heavily impaired" on prescription medication for a mental illness. He's also been linked to the disappearance of Zebb Quinn; he was the last person to see the 18-year-old alive before he disappeared, reported the .
A neighbor had seen Owens carrying unusually large bags out to the trash, prompting the concerned call to police. During an investigation of Owens' home, the couple's remains were found in his stove, and Owens was arrested. Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams called their deaths "among the most disturbing killings in Buncombe County history."
As part of his plea bargain, Owens will not face the death penalty, but he will spend anywhere from 59.5 years to 74.5 years in prison — without the possibility of parole.
"I am sincerely sorry for causing the loss of your loved ones, and the pain and suffering that it caused you," .
The Todds' family members issued a statement to the Citizen-Times stating that no punishment could rectify what he did. "We can only hope that he suffers for the remainder of his life on Earth and again as he rots in hell," they wrote.