‘Miracle’ Jason Corbett’s kids did not see scene of his death, judge told as Tom and Molly Martens face sentence this evening

The father and daughter beat the Limerick businessman to death in his North Carolina home in 2015

Judge David Hall told a North Carolina court after hearing closing arguments from the prosecution and defence legal teams that he wanted to proceed to judgement on Wednesday afternoon.

As part of the judgement process, victim impact statements will be delivered on behalf of five members of Mr Corbett’s family including his two children, Jack (19) and Sarah (17).

Tom (73) and Molly (40) – a father and daughter from Tennessee – could face a sentence ranging from probation up to nine years in prison.

The duo admitted beating Mr Corbett (39) to death with a metal baseball bat and a concrete paving slab in the bedroom of his home at Panther Creek Court in North Carolina on August 2, 2015.

Both had been convicted of Mr Corbett’s second degree murder after a trial in August 2017 and subsequently served over three and a half years of a 20- to 25-year prison sentence before being released from custody after their convictions were quashed.

Defence legal teams including Jones Byrd, Jay Vannoy and Douglas Kingsberry have argued for “extraordinary mitigation” in the case.

The Corbett family arrive at Davidson County Superior Court in Lexington: Day eight

Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin broke down as he delivered his closing argument and said it was “a miracle” that Mr Corbett’s two children, who were then aged 10 years and eight years, did not witness the horrific scene in the bedroom following the beating to death of their father.

Blood was splattered on the carpet, walls, ceiling and even the furniture.

The two children were asleep in their bedrooms upstairs while their father was bludgeoned to death.

The sentencing hearing before Davidson County Superior Court was told that bits of Mr Corbett’s scalp were torn off while his skull was so badly shattered that pieces fell out as he was placed on a medical examination table before his post mortem.

Mr Martin said Mr Corbett’s voice was never heard about the true events that night.

“It is nothing but a miracle that these two children do not have the sights and sounds of that night seared into their brains. Nothing but a miracle,” Mr Martin said as his voice shook with emotion.

Molly and Tom Martens

Earlier, he contended that Ms Martens had a plan before she married the Limerick widower whose wife died in November 2006 leaving him with two children aged two years and under.

“Molly had a plan and that plan came into fruition well before she married Jason Corbett,” he said.

Mr Martin said that Ms Martens planned to marry Mr Corbett and then divorce him and take custody of his two children.

He said she admitted as much to a psychiatrist who examined her before the North Carolina manslaughter plea bargain.

“She was talking to a divorce attorney about how to get the kids [before the marriage].”

Mr Martin agreed with defence counsel that it was “all about the kids for Molly”.

“The problem [about the fatal night] is that Jason’s statement died with him – Jason’s statement was on the carpet, it was on the wall and it was on the ceiling [his blood]”.

He urged Judge Hall to consider the scene of carnage in Mr Corbett’s home to discern the truth and the appallingly excessive violence used.

Mr Martin said that Molly was skilled at deceiving and dissembling – and had “a complicated relationship with the truth”.

“This is someone who is practised at deception,” he said.

“She lived a lie… she was motivated by the refusal to let go of what she wanted but she could not have [Jack and Sarah].

“All she had to do was to quit living the lie.”

Mr Martin said the depiction of Mr Corbett in the court proceedings where he has been portrayed as an abuser and someone who was responsible for the death of his first wife was “unfair”.

Such allegations, he said, were “reckless.”

“Is Jason a monster as he has been portrayed to be? Is it fair? No it is not. Was this a happy home? No. That does not justify what happened,” Mr Martin said.

He said Molly “was living a lie in a loveless marriage” simply because she wanted to divorce Mr Corbett and secure custody of his children.

The district attorney suggested she had tried to engineer a domestic incident on August 2, in the family home with her parents present, where she would suffer an injury and be able to seek an emergency court order for custody of the two children.

He insisted the prosecution were not suggesting premeditation in the killing.

“She entered a marriage in full and open contemplation of divorcing someone to take somebody else’s children,” Mr Martin said.

But he said the August 2 tragedy occurred as “the clock was ticking” on “Molly’s years-long plan to get these kids”.

He said Molly realised Mr Corbett could take the two children back to Ireland and her plan would come to nothing.

In contrast, defence counsel argued that Mr Corbett was the aggressor on the night and that Tom and Molly Martens were engaged in a desperate battle to survive.

Douglas Kingsberry said the entire incident would have ended if Mr Corbett had followed Tom Martens’ demand for him to release his daughter.

Jay Vannoy said that Mr Corbett kept being the aggressor despite every effort by Tom Martens to defuse and calm the situation.

Jones Byrd said Mr Martens had lived a blameless life of public service and had been caught up in events that were not of his making.

“Everything about this case is extraordinary,” Mr Byrd said.

“There is nothing normal about this case – it is unusual. It is extraordinary,” he said as he urged Judge Hall to apply the extraordinary mitigating circumstances rule.

Molly Martens with Tom Corbett

He also pointed out that Mr Martens had served over three and a half years in prison on a manifestly unfair conviction at a time when his wife, Sharon, was undergoing cancer treatment.

Corbett family supporters claimed that having brutally taken Mr Corbett’s life, Tom and Molly Martens then attempted to destroy his character and good name by falsely painting him as a wife abuser, a bully and someone who attempted to control his second wife through leveraging her love for his children by ensuring she could never adopt them.

Tom Martens, a former FBI agent and counter-intelligence operative with the US Department of Energy, admitted the voluntary manslaughter of the Irish packaging executive as part of a plea bargain deal with Davidson County prosecutors.

Molly Martens, who met Mr Corbett when she travelled to Ireland to work as a nanny for his two young children two years after the death of his wife, entered a ‘no contest’ plea to the same offence.

Judge Hall warned Davidson County Superior Court that the judiciary considers the ‘no contest’ arrangement to be a form of guilty plea.

Both father and daughter will now be formally regarded as convicted felons.

Prosecutors had argued for a sentence at the higher end of the scale, ranging from six to nine years in prison.

District attorneys had also argued that an aggravating factor in the killing was the fact Mr Corbett’s two children, Jack, then 10 years of age, and Sarah, then eight years of age, were both in upstairs bedrooms of the family home at Panther Creek Court when their father was bludgeoned to death.

Defence lawyers argued for a sentence at the lower end of the scale, insisting that both father and daughter acted in self defence after alleging that Mr Corbett attempted to strangle Ms Martens before her father intervened.

It was also argued that Mr Corbett had subjected his second wife to verbal, physical and emotional abuse.

Douglas Kingsberry, lawyer for Ms Martens, further claimed that Mr Corbett had killed his first wife, Margaret ‘Mags’ Fitzpatrick-Corbett, and that she feared the same fate would now befall her.

Defence lawyers argued that what was described as “a Limerick pathology report with major deficiencies” proved that Mrs Corbett did not die of asthma as claimed in November 2006, just weeks after the birth of her youngest child.

Three of four medical experts who delivered expert testimony to the hearing said that Mrs Corbett’s death was best described as “undetermined”.

A fourth medical expert said it was probable that Mrs Corbett had died from an asphyxia event linked to manual strangulation.

The same expert, Dr Bill Smock, also said he believed there were “multiple findings” which supported the claim that Ms Martens had been strangled two or possibly even three times on August 2.

Four friends of Ms Martens offered testimony at the sentencing hearing to support Ms Martens’ claim of domestic abuse.

One friend, Billie June Jacob, insisted that Ms Martens only stayed with her Irish husband “because she would not leave without the children… she loved the children and wanted them to be safe.”

“She told me there was physical, emotional and mental abuse with Jason,” Ms Jacob said.

“It scared me for her.”

Another friend, Shannon Grubb, said Mr Corbett was “very jealous” of his wife and immediately intervened if she was in small groups with another man while out socialising.

Ms Martens and her family had repeatedly asked Mr Corbett to sign adoption papers giving her equal rights to his children by his late first wife.

Mr Corbett’s family insisted that, because of his concerns over Ms Martens mental health problems and her increasingly bizarre behaviour, he steadfastly refused to sign the adoption papers.

Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin pointed out during the hearing that a psychologist who conducted an assessment of Ms Martens before the plea bargain deal found that: “The primary focus of her existence from before she married Jason Corbett was to adopt these two children, then divorce him and then have custody rights of the two children.”

It was also submitted that Ms Martens had “a laser-like focus on the two children.”

The hearing was also told that members of Ms Martens family attempted to put pressure on Mr Corbett to agree to the adoption – with her brother, Bobby, taking “a jab” at his Irish brother-in-law that the best Christmas present for Molly would be signed adoption papers.

Ms Martens consulted a friend, Melissa Sams, who was a lawyer who handled high-conflict custody cases, and alleged she had been the victim of domestic violence and wanted advice about custody of the children.

The Tennessee woman had also visited a divorce lawyer within weeks of marrying Mr Corbett in June 2011 to determine her rights to the children.

Ms Sams, in notes she took from the conversation in January 2015, eight months before Mr Corbett was beaten to death, said Ms Martens told her she was taking secret recordings around the house.

The lawyer encouraged her to keep doing so and offered to hold such recordings in safe keeping for Ms Martens – telling Judge Hall that they are “impactful” in a family law setting.

One recording was played to the hearing where Ms Martens secretly recorded a row with her husband which simmered over him asking to have a family meal on Shrove Tuesday in 2015 – only to return home to find Ms Martens and the children had eaten without him.

A simmering verbal row ends with Mr Corbett banging a $100 chair, Ms Martens repeatedly pleading with Mr Corbett and eventually Sarah screaming for her parents to stop fighting.

Ms Sams also said she rang Ms Martens hours after hearing Mr Corbett had died but without realising the precise circumstances of the death.

She said her friend told her: “Something to the effect of: he was strangling me or choking me and then she said it was him or me.”

The hearing also witnessed video-taped interviews conducted with Jack and Sarah four days after their father was found beaten to death.

Each of the children was interviewed at DragonFly House, a North Carolina social services agency, on August 6 after spending four days in the sole custody of Ms Martens and her family.

The interviews were conducted just hours before the children were due to attend a North Carolina memorial service for their father – and with both having been told Mr Corbett’s Irish family would attempt to take them at the service and bring them back to Ireland.

Both children spoke glowingly of their mother – and said they had seen their father push Ms Martens, pull her hair and even strike her.

Jack and Sarah retracted the statements after they were returned to Ireland following a bitter custody hearing which saw Mr Corbett’s family secure rights to the two children.

Prosecutors claimed that the DragonFly House statements were coached.

Jack had used the phrase: “He [Mr Corbett] would physically and verbally hurt my Mom” which prosecutors argued was clearly adult phraseology.

Neither the DragonFly House statements or the retracted Irish statements were allowed during the original 2017 trial – a key factor in prompting the North Carolina Supreme Court to quash the convictions.


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