By David Raleigh
The family of the late Jason Corbett, who have been locked in a custody battle for his children in America, hope to be able to bring them back to Ireland by next Saturday, sources close to the family have said.
Jack, (10), and Sarah, (8), were yesterday placed into the care of Mr Corbett's sister Tracey, and her husband David Lynch, after they were summoned to an unexpected court hearing in North Carolina.
A pre-scheduled custody hearing is expected to go ahead on Thursday. It is expected the proceedings will be dissolved at that time, allowing Mr Corbett's relatives carry out his wishes and bring them back to their native Ireland.
Since their father's death on August 2, his Irish-born children had been cared for by their step mother Molly Martens, 31, who, along with her father, and Thomas Martens, 65, are "persons of interest" in the police investigation into Mr Corbett's death.
"They must feel like they have won the lottery, but it's bittersweet for the family, because they have to begin to start letting go of Jason now," said family friend Mary Fitzpatrick.
The family plan to hold a funeral for Jason, 39, next week.
His body was flown home to Limerick last Thursday but his family said they would not bury him until his children had also returned home.
Tracey and David Lynch had been named by Mr Corbett in his will as his children's legal guardians in the event of his death.
"I'm awake since 1am this morning. I just couldn't sleep," said Ms Fitzpatrick, who has been spearheading a fundraising drive to help with the Lynch's legal bills, accommodation, and travel costs.
"I spoke with Tracey, she has the kids in her care. She had them in her hotel room last night," she said.
"(Tracey) can't leave the States yet, she still has to attend the custody hearing, but they hope all going well, that they will be home on Saturday with the children," she added.
"They were called back to court yesterday for some reason and Tracey left with the children. She was so relieved."
"She sounded tired and very concerned about the children," Ms Fitzpatrick said.
"It's been horrible for the children," she added.
Jack and Sarah's mother, Mags Fitzpatrick, passed away in 2006 after suffering an asthma attack.
"It's bittersweet. The family now have to begin Jason's Journey and let him go. The family now hope they can start the process of grieving for Jason," she said.
Ms Fitzpatrick said over €16,000 had been raised for the family through donations received from North Carolina, Ireland, and the UK.
"We did a transfer of some of the funds last night directly to their account as they were penniless. They have a big hotel bill, the legal bill, a hire car, and everything else," she said.
"The fees have been humongous, but, wasn't it all worth it," she added.
"They are thrilled they have been able to finally see the children. It's their moment. It's bittersweet."
"I would expect charges will be preferred against the perpetrators now," Ms Fitzpatrick said.
Police believe Mr Corbett, 39, from Janesboro, Limerick, was assaulted with a baseball bat at his home.
According to a police incident report, Ms Martens' father made a 999 call from the home and said he had struck Mr Corbett on the head.
Around 600 people attended a candle light gathering in Limerick last night in solidarity with the Corbett family.
Limerick City and County Council has opened an online Book of Condolences in memory of Jason Corbett, which members of the public are invited to sign.
The Book of Condolences was officially opened by Councillor Jerry O'Dea, Mayor of the Metropolitan District of Limerick.