Custody battle for children of Limerick man killed in US delayed

By David Raleigh

The family of a Limerick man, killed in the US, who began fighting his wife for custody of his two Irish born children on Friday, have said they have to wait another "agonising" week before they know if they can bring the children back to Ireland to raise them.

Jason Corbett, 39, who moved to America four years ago with his son Jack, (10), and daughter Sarah, (8), following the tragic death of his first wife Mags -- the children's mother -- was found by police in a critical condition in his home in North Carolina on Sunday, August 2.

Custody battle for children of Limerick man killed in US delayed

A custody hearing in North Carolina which began Friday afternoon was adjourned late Friday night until next Thursday, August 20.

Prior to his death, Mr Corbett's wishes were that his sister Tracey, and her husband David Lynch, would become his children's legal guardians should anything happen to him.

Mr Corbett's children were placed into the care of their step mother Molly Martens, 31, who is seeking custody of Jack and Sarah.

Ms Martens and her father Thomas are believed to be "persons of interest" in the police investigation into Mr Corbett's death. However, they have not been officially named as suspects.

Custody battle for children of Limerick man killed in US delayed

Police responding to a "domestic disturbance" at Mr Corbett's home found him inside the house "unresponsive" and having sustained critical head injuries.

Police believe he was struck with a blunt implement, posibly a baseball bat, which they recovered at the house for a forensic examination.

Tracey and David Lynch, who have spent tens of thousands of euro on travel, accommodation, and legal costs, spent several hours in court on Friday hoping to secure legal permission to return to Ireland with their nephew and niece, Jack and Sarah.

Reacting to the hearing adjournment, Mr Corbett's sister-in-law Pauline Corbett, said it will now be "another week of agony for this family" before they know if they can bring Mr Corbett's children back to Ireland.

She also thanked people "for all the prayers".

"Please keep (the prayers) going as the family won't have a decision until Thursday," she said.

"The whole country has Jack and Sarah in their prayers," she added.

Davidson County Sheriff David Grice has said there are no suspects outside of the home.

Custody battle for children of Limerick man killed in US delayed

Jason Corbett and Molly Martens.

In a brief telephone interview with North Carolina news agency The Dispatch, Thomas Martens, 65, said: "I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time. I'll let the official investigation take its course."

Davidson County Clerk of Superior Court, Brian Shipwash, presided over the guardianship hearing, which will reconvene next week.

David Freedman, attorney for Ms Martens, said his client is cooperating with authorities.

He told The Dispatch Ms Martens has been raising Jack and Sarah Corbett for the past eight years.

He also confirmed that in Jason Corbett's will, he wished that his sister, Tracey, be the guardian of his children.

Molly Corbett, who went to Clemson University, met Jason Corbett when she became the children's nanny in Ireland, Mr Freedman said.

Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank said he was waiting to receive a complete investigation into Mr Corbett's death.

He said he hadn't yet decided if he will take the case before a Davidson County Grand Jury.

Mr Frank said an important aspect of the case will be the results of Mr Corbett's post mortem, which he said he had not yet received.

"In any situation like this, the nature of the cause of the death and the nature of wounds is particularly important," Mr Frank told The Dispatch.

Meanwhile, Jason Corbett's twin brother, Wayne, revealed, bringing Jason's body home to Limerick from Dublin Airport, "was one of the toughest things I had to do, apart from telling my parents that (Jason) had passed away".

Jan O'Sullivan, the Minister for Education, has said that there is an "absolute willingness" by the government to assist the Tracey and David Lynch.

Fianna Fáil TD, Willie O'Dea, said the US authorities are "violating the human rights" of the Corbett children by not immediately releasing them into the care of their only blood relatives who live in Ireland.

Mr Corbett's body was repatriated back to his native Limerick last week, however his family have said they will not have a funeral until the custody hearing in the States is finalised.

He is to be buried alongside his first wife Mags, who died tragically following an asthma attack in 2006.

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