Father-in-law of Jason Corbett: ‘I hit him until I felt he could not kill me’

The father-in-law of Irishman Jason Corbett took the stand yesterday in a North Carolina courtroom describing how he repeatedly beat the 39-year-old Irishman on the head with a baseball bat in the early hours of August 2, 2015, writes Michael L Hewlett.

“I hit him until he goes down and then I step away,” “Thomas Martens, 67, testified. I don’t know how many times I hit him. I hit him until I thought he could not kill me ... I felt both of our lives were in danger. I did the best I could.”

Prosecutors allege Molly Martens and her father brutally beat Jason Corbett to death with a 71cm Louisville Slugger baseball bat and a concrete paving brick. A medical examiner said Mr Corbett was hit in the head at least 12 times. Molly and Thomas Martens are claiming self-defence and the defence of others.

Mr Martens, a 31-year veteran of the FBI, and his 33-year-old daughter, Molly, Mr Corbett’s wife, are on trial for second-degree murder.

Mr Martens was the first witness that defence attorneys called to the stand. He and his wife, Sharon, live in Knoxville, Tennessee, and had had plans on the night of August 1, 2015, to have dinner with friends. Those plans later got cancelled, and Mr Martens said he and his wife decided to drive down to visit their daughter and son-in-law and Jason’s two children, Jack and Sarah, in Davidson County.

They got there at around 8.30pm and had pizza with Molly, Jason, and Sarah. Jack had gone to a friend’s party nearby and came home about 11pm. Mr Martens testified that he had gone to bed with plans to play golf with Mr Corbett the next day.

“I head thumping, loud thumping, loud footfalls,” said Mr Mrtens said. “I heard a scream and loud voices. There was an obvious disturbance going on above me.”

Mr Martens said he got out of bed and grabbed the baseball bat he had planned to give to Jack the next day and went upstairs.

By the time he got upstairs, he said the sounds were coming from the master bedroom where Jason and Molly were. He opened the closed door.

“In front of me, Jason had his hands around Molly’s neck. She was a little to the right. He was a little to the left,” he said.

At some point, he said, Mr Corbett turned Ms MArtens around and placed her into the crook of his right arm.

“I said: ‘Let her go.’ He said: ‘I’m going to kill her.’ I said: ‘Let her go.’ He said: ‘I’m going to kill her,’” Mr Martens said, starting to choke up. “He was really angry. I was really scared.”

Mr Corbett then took a step toward the hallway that goes to the bathroom.

“I was afraid he was going to get to the bathroom and that would be the end of that,” said Mr Martns, his voice thick with emotion. He said he took a step to the right and hit Jason in the back of the head with the baseball bat.

“It seemed like the most effective place to hit him,” he said. “I didn’t want to hit Molly.” That’s because, Martens said, Jason was taller than Molly and he had her in a tight chokehold.

The hit only made Jason angrier, Martens said but Molly was no longer in Jason’s grip. Jason started to move toward the bathroom and Martens followed. Then they moved back towards the bedroom. “I get what I think is a chance to hit him. Only this time, he puts up his left hand and catches the bat, perfectly right in his palm.”

Molly escaped at that moment, Martens said. Jason then pushed Martens with his left hand across the bedroom. Martens said he thought his glasses had fallen off and he looked for them and then realised he had to do something. Molly was by the nightstand and Jason was looking at them both, Martens said. “I decide to rush him and try to get hold of the bat.”

The men struggled over the bat, and Martens gained control. Then Martens said he hit Jason with the bat, again and again until Jason went down.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner

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