Jason Corbett's children’s evidence could hold the key to retrial 

The second Jason Corbett murder trial may hinge on who the jury believe to have been the abuser and who was the abused in his relationship with Molly Martens, writes Liz Dunphy
Jason Corbett's children’s evidence could hold the key to retrial 

Molly Martens, 37, Jason Corbett’s second wife, and her father Tom, 71, a former FBI agent, admitted killing Mr Corbett, 39, a father-of-two, attacking him with a baseball bat and a brick, but claimed self defence. Picture: Jerry Wolford.

A chilling 911 call in the early hours of August, 2, 2015, began the public face of a very private, bloody crime, the truth of which still remains unknown and bitterly contested.

The caller, Tom Martens, said his son-in-law, Jason Corbett, “got in a fight” with his daughter, Molly Martens Corbett, and that he had found Jason “choking my daughter.”

“‘He said, ‘I’m going to kill her.’”

Tom told 911 he had attacked Jason with a baseball bat to try to save his daughter, leaving him “in bad shape”. “We need help... He, he’s bleeding all over, and I, I may have killed him.”

When emergency medics arrived at the scene, Jason’s body was already cool. He was lying by a pool of blood and there was blood all over the walls.

Jason Corbett was bludgeoned to death by his father-in-law Tom Martens in August 2015.
Jason Corbett was bludgeoned to death by his father-in-law Tom Martens in August 2015.

Molly, 37, Jason’s second wife, and her father Tom, 71, a former FBI agent, admitted killing Mr Corbett, 39, a father-of-two, attacking him with a baseball bat and a brick, but claimed self defence.

Emergency medics did not find significant defence wounds on either of the Martens but they were splattered with his blood.

They were found guilty of second degree murder following a high-profile trial and were jailed in 2017 for 20 to 25 years but appealed their convictions.

This week, more than five years after the Limerick-born businessman was bludgeoned to death in the bedroom of his luxury North Carolina home at 160 Panther Creek Court, his killers walked free from prison.

A narrow US Supreme Court vote has granted the Martens a full retrial.

They were released on a €200,000 bail bond on Wednesday pending a new trial which is unlikely to take place before late 2022 due to Covid backlogs in the courts.

Tom Marten’s lawyer, David Freedman, said that no future court date has yet been set.

“Right now we are back at the starting point …there is no conviction and they are presumed to be innocent,” Mr Freedman said.

Background

Tennessee-born Molly stepped off the plane from America, aged 24, and still wearing her cowboy boots, to work as an au-pair for Jason Corbett, then a 32-year-old widower following the tragic sudden death of his wife, Margaret ‘Mags’ Fitzpatrick. Their children, Jack and Sarah, were just three and one at the time.

A romantic relationship developed between the pair and they married three years later, in 2011, and moved to Davidson County, North Carolina, where Jason’s employer had recently opened a new office.

Central to the murder case and to the appeal were interviews given by Jason’s two children, Jack, now 16, and Sarah, now 14, which were omitted from the first trial.

In two interviews, one made the day after the killing and one made after their father’s funeral, both Jack and Sarah said their father had a temper and had previously attacked Molly.

The children corroborated Molly’s accounts of how Jason had abused her in their home.

They also corroborated her accounts as to why one of the murder weapons, a garden brick, was in her bedroom that night. Molly was not present for the interviews.

But after Mr Corbett’s sister, Tracey Corbett Lynch, won custody of Jack and Sarah and they returned to Ireland under her care, both children retracted what they said in those interviews.

From the Lynch’s home in Limerick in May 2016, Jack told the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office over Skype that Molly had coerced them into making those statements which were completely false and that it was actually Molly who had been abusive, both to their father and to him.

“I just want the truth. And I found out what happened to my dad, and I want justice to be served,” Jack said in the interview at the time.

But the retrial will now admit those initial interviews as evidence.

Conflicting testimony

The case may largely hinge on who is proved to have been the abuser – Molly, as the Corbetts now say, or Jason, as the Martens claim.

Molly claims she has recordings of the abuse.

But she also has a track record of lying, with neighbours and a former housemate recounting lies that she told throughout the years. This may raise questions about her reliability in court.

In last month’s North Carolina Supreme Court ruling, evidence was heard from Deputy David Dillard of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office who had been tasked with observing Molly immediately after the killing.

He testified he noticed dried blood on her forehead and face but no obvious injuries.

Molly “was making crying noises but I didn’t see any visible tears”. “She was also rubbing her neck,” he said.

Another officer who photographed Molly to document her physical condition testified that she was “continually tugg[ing] and pull[ing] on her neck with her hand”.

The Martens’ testimony from that night said Jason had been strangling Molly in their bedroom when her father, who was staying with the Corbetts that weekend, heard the commotion and ran upstairs to intervene.

Tom testified that Jason repeatedly said ‘I’m going to kill her,’ so he started to hit Jason with a baseball bat to try to free his daughter.

“I hit him until I thought that he could not kill me. I thought that he was – I mean, he said he was going to kill Molly. I certainly felt he would kill me. I felt both of our lives were in danger. I did the best I could,” Tom told the court.

Thomas Martens testified that Jason repeatedly said ‘I’m going to kill her,’ so he started to hit Jason with a baseball bat to try to free his daughter..
Thomas Martens testified that Jason repeatedly said ‘I’m going to kill her,’ so he started to hit Jason with a baseball bat to try to free his daughter..

When Molly allegedly got free, she “tried to hit [Jason] with a brick (garden décor) I had on my nightstand”.

When emergency services arrived, they found Jason in a pool of blood and tried to lift his chin for intubation. But the paramedic’s fingers “went inside [Jason’s] skull,” and he had “severe, heavy trauma to the back of the head”.

The forensic pathologist who conducted Jason’s autopsy concluded that he had died from “multiple blunt force injuries” with skull fractures “we may see in falls from great heights or in car crashes.”

“Jason was the victim of a cold and calculated murder, designed to give Molly custody of Jason’s children, and the financial benefit of an insurance policy,” Tracey Corbett Lynch and David Lynch, legal guardians of Jack and Sarah, said in a recent statement.

“They beat him with a baseball bat and a paving brick, hitting him in the head at least 12 times, crushing his skull.

“Experienced detectives found the crime scene wholly inconsistent with the self-defence justification provided by both Tom and Molly Martens.

“Ambulance crews noted that Jason’s body was cold to the touch when they arrived, leaving detectives to conclude that Jason had been left to die before the 911 call was even made,” the Corbett-Lynch family said.

And not only did the Martens kill Jason but they have waged a “vicious and unrelenting smear campaign in the media and in the courtroom” against him, the Corbett-Lynchs said.

Casting a shadow

Molly and Tom cast shadows over the death of Jason’s first wife, Mags Fitzpatrick, suggesting  her death in 2006 may have been caused by something more sinister than the cardiac arrest due to an asthma attack that the Irish authorities recorded.

They have continually fought for their freedom through the courts and exposed the children to more trauma by doing so, the Corbett-Lynch family say.

“We look forward to a date being set for a retrial at the earliest opportunity,” the Corbett-Lynch family said.

“We strive to live in a society with morals, values and kindness.

“We cannot allow for executions in our homes. We have to stand together against those who think they are above the law, those who can cruelly inflict injury in the most heinous, barbaric way, enough to cause death 10 times over.

“The Martens have shown no remorse, just utter contempt for their victim, his children and his grieving family.

“The children are prepared to give evidence in a retrial… They look forward to telling a jury the truth about the abuse they and Jason suffered at the hands of Molly Martens.”

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