Molly Martens was afraid of husband Jason Corbett and believed he had killed his first wife, her lawyers claim at the hearing

The chilling lawsuit came as North Carolina prosecutors agreed to a plea deal with Tom, 73, and Molly, 40, Martens over the brutal murder of the Limerick widower and father of two in August 2015.

Under the shock agreement, retired FBI agent Tom Martens pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter, while his daughter Molly pleaded no contest to a similar charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Both appeared before Judge David Hall at Davidson County Superior Court in Lexington, North Carolina – with the hearing now taking the form of a sentencing hearing rather than a full jury retrial.

In a dramatic opening statement from the defence, Douglas Kingsberry, for Ms Martens, said they would present “significant evidence” to call into question the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Corbett’s first wife, Margaret “Mags” Corbett, in Limerick in November 2006.

Just a few weeks after the birth of her daughter, her second child, she suffered a fatal asthma attack in the presence of her sister and husband.

Mr Corbett frantically drove his wife to an ambulance to speed up the time it took to get her to University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

However, Mr Kingsberry said his client believed Mr Corbett killed his first wife.

“She had confided to several witnesses that she had growing concerns that he (Mr Corbett) had killed his first wife and that she would suffer the same fate,” he said.

“The first woman did not have an asthma attack as alleged… (it was) reasonable that murder by strangulation was possible.”

The defense indicated that important medical evidence would also be considered as a mitigating factor at the sentencing hearing.

Mr Kingsberry said evidence would be presented by both prosecution and defense experts – but he said “the defense experts will be the stronger ones.”

Molly Martens swears an oath on the Bible

He also said evidence would be heard at the hearing that Mr Corbett suffered from anger issues and that the circumstances of his first wife’s death were similar to the events on the night leading to his death eight years ago.

Tom Martens’ lawyers, Jay Vannoy and Jones Byrd, said Mr Martens was shocked to see his daughter strangled by her husband in the early hours of the morning.

“His perception and impulse were changed by it,” Mr. Vannoy said.

Judge Hall was told that Mr Martens had led “an exemplary life – and an extraordinary life” as a former FBI agent and US intelligence officer, but that what happened on August 2, 2015 was underpinned by his emotional reaction to protect his daughter .

“You can’t grow out of it,” he said.

Mr Vannoy said ten key mitigating factors would be pleaded in Mr Martens’ favour.

He said the main question at the hearing was why the “bloody, horrific scene” took place in the first place.

The first evidence came from Davidson County police officers and paramedics who rushed to the scene at 3 a.m. on August 2, 2015.

Also played at the hearing was Tom Martens’ full 911 call, in which he said he hit his son-in-law with a baseball bat and said, “I could have killed him.”

Lt. Clayton Dagendardt, the first police officer to reach the crime scene at the Corbett family home, said a paramedic told him, “It’s terrible – it’s a terrible scene,” saying inside the walls, floor and carpet were included Blood splattered after Mr Corbett was fatally beaten with a metal baseball bat and heavy stone pavers.

The brick was on Ms Marten’s bedside table – and she said she hit her husband with it to protect her father.

The sentencing hearing is expected to last up to two weeks.

The father and daughter’s retrial on second-degree murder charges over the Irish widower’s death in August 2015 was expected to last more than six weeks.

Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin told Judge Hall that after extensive and protracted negotiations, an agreement was reached between the state and defense attorneys.

Mr. Martin said the state would withdraw the involuntary manslaughter charge once the involuntary manslaughter charges were accepted.

Judge Hall requested that both defendants be interviewed to ensure they understood the nature of the plea and its implications.

“Do you understand that from this point on, the justice system will consider you a convicted criminal,” he asked?

When asked if he understood the appeal, Tom Martens replied: “I do.”

When Molly Martens asked her the same questions, she replied, “Yes, I do.”

Judge Hall remarked to Molly Martens: “A ‘no contest’ is a form of admission of guilt.”

After questioning both defendants, Judge Hall said he was pleased that both had understood the charges and accepted and affirmed the pleas of voluntary manslaughter.

Judge Hall will convict the manslaughter charge once he has heard a detailed review of the case and submissions from the prosecution and defense.

Prosecutors are now seeking prison sentences of between six and a half and nine years given the overall factors of the case and the aggravating factor that Mr Corbett’s children were on the property when he suffered his fatal injuries.

They will argue that an aggravating factor was the presence of his two children at the property on the night Mr Corbett was beaten to death.

Judge Hall was told that both were sleeping in the upstairs bedrooms of the Panther Creek Court home.

Defense attorneys – who have consistently argued that the father and daughter feared for their lives on August 2, 2015 and were acting solely in self-defense – will argue for lower sentences of between just over three and just under six years.

If Judge Hall accepts the defense’s requests for sentences to be imposed at the lowest end of the scale, the father and daughter will be able to walk out of court based on the time they have already served in prison following the original sentencing.

Both served three and a half years of the 20 to 25 year prison sentences imposed following their 2017 conviction.

The father and daughter were released from prison more than two years ago after the North Carolina Supreme Court granted their appeal and overturned their convictions.

Mr. Corbett’s two children, Jack, 19, and Sarah, 17, attended the court hearing in North Carolina along with Mr. Corbett’s sister Tracey Corbett-Lynch, who has led a campaign for justice for her brother and her husband Dave Lynch.

Also attending the hearing in North Carolina are Mr. Corbett’s siblings, Wayne and Marilyn.

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