Murder and Mounting Mystery in the North Carolina Mountains
Separately, Lycan also noted that he tried on several occasions to share his final interactions with the Codds with sheriff’s officials, yet “they weren’t very interested” and eventually “sent over a couple of suits” to take pictures of his phone.
J.T.’s friends pointed out in their letter to Cooper that there had been a fight at the Codds’ wedding initiated by Owens and a friend. That friend, Andrew Mohammed, worked on the property as well. And the fight was also on the Codds’ property – an “inner circle” had gone back up to the property after the reception for a wedding-night bonfire.
J.T.'s friends also noticed “odd and inappropriate” Facebook posts by a relative of Owens; the profile has since been taken down and one of J.T.’s friends tried making several calls to detectives about the discovery.
They also expressed concern about the fires potentially destroying evidence on the Codds’ property and the lack of guard over the crime scene while it still hadn’t been fully processed – as well as the criminology students eventually utilized to comb the scene.
And if Owens was in custody for murder, who set the fires? “Our immediate concern is that if persons in addition to Robert Owens are involved, more evidence could be lost, hidden or destroyed or worse than that, other lives might be in danger,” the letter adds.
The friends also asked about a request from the sheriff’s department for J.T. Codd’s medical records. “We wonder if there is uncertainty as to whether the remains found actually belong to JT,” they wrote. “If so, we are concerned about the report that the remains have been found. We also question why there has been no mention of Cristie and Skylar’s [the unborn child] remains.” The sheriff’s office hasn’t confirmed how many sets of remains and whose remains were found.
They received a response from the attorney general’s office that, by North Carolina law, they’re not authorized to investigate the complaint against the sheriff’s office.
In May, North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation told PJM that the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office had not asked for assistance on the Codd case. PJM recently asked the sheriff’s office if this was still true, and was told they would “no longer make any comment at all” on the case.
The SBI has never been called in by Buncombe County on two other murders, still unsolved: William Baraqui, a Florida man found shot to death at the Nakon Motel along the Smokey Park Highway in 2013, and Judy Smith of Boston, whose remains were found a hiking trail in 1997. A story on the latter investigation noted Buncombe investigators were bristling at the prospect of FBI involvement in the case.
SBI spokeswoman Teresa West did say that as far as “homicides in the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office, the SBI has assisted in over 100 of those cases.”
The unsolved case that rings instant alarms with Owens, though, is a 15-year-old disappearance in which he was originally a suspect. In 2000, 18-year-old Zebb Quinn met Owens one night after his Walmart shift to go see a car he was interested in buying. They took separate cars, and Owens told police Quinn signaled with his headlights for him to pull over, was agitated about a page he received and then accidentally rear-ended Owens’ car. Owens later showed up at a hospital with a head injury and broken ribs; he’d gotten in another car accident, he claimed, though there was no police report to substantiate this.
Two days after Quinn disappeared, Owens called the Walmart – pretending to be Quinn, calling in sick. The call was traced back to Owens, who said he was doing a favor for his friend at his request. No arrest was ever made.
After the Codds disappeared, though, attention was renewed on the Quinn case. Asheville Police revealed they found fabric and leather as well as "unknown hard fragments" underneath a layer of concrete for an alleged pond project that Owens started after Quinn’s disappearance yet didn’t finish.
Owens’ prior scrapes with law include dealing prescription drugs, driving under the influence and possessing stolen property. "I do not see him doing this. To put him in the paper and on the news like he's a serial killer, he's not that kind of person,” his cousin, Scott Owens, told the Asheville Citizen-Times. “…He told me from day one, don't believe what you hear. We were all friends with the Codds.”
Friends of J.T. Codd who spoke with PJM didn’t doubt Owens’ involvement, but felt they’re not getting the whole story.
For one, they didn’t see the 6’4”, 190-pound J.T. getting easily overpowered. They also noted that a burglary last year at the Codds’ home – Owens was listed on the police report as a neighbor, where his aunt lived – emptied a shed of tools that would have been hard for one person to haul away. And if robbery was a motive this time, why leave valuables behind when Owens knew the home from his work there?
As far as other suspects, before indicating that they would no longer comment a sheriff’s office spokesperson told PJM “it’s an ongoing investigation that we are working.”
One friend of the couple’s in town characterized the roads that wound up into the mountains as corridors of meth use and dealing, and said Cristie found herself in the “unwanted position of being a counselor.”
“There’s one or more accomplices up and down that hill,” the source opined of the murders.