Tuesday 25 October 2016

Children of slain Irishman Jason Corbett 'will be on first plane home' after final custody hearing

Family in Ireland hope to see Jack (10) and Sarah (8) this weekend

David Kearns & Cormac Fitzgerald

Published 19/08/2015 | 07:45

Jason Corbett with his children Jack (10) and Sarah (8)
Jason Corbett with his children Jack (10) and Sarah (8)
Undated photograph of the late Jason Corbett with his children Sarah and Jack. Pic supplied by the Corbett family.
Undated photograph of Sarah (8) and Jack (7), children of the late Jason Corbett, with their grandmother

Two young children of slain Irish man Jason Corbett "will be on the first plane home" once their final custody hearing is over, their aunt said.

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Limerick man Jason Corbett (39) was found bludgeoned to death in the bedroom of his home on August 2.

The vigil in Limerick city last night
The vigil in Limerick city last night

His children, Jack (10) and Sarah (8), have since been placed under the care of his sister Tracey and her husband David Lynch following a custody battle with Jason's second wife, Molly Martens.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Drivetime, Jason's former sister-in-law and the children's aunt said the family hope to see the children over the weekend.

"As soon as we get the go-ahead [the children will leave the US], we're hoping we'll see them over the weekend," Catherine Fitzpatrick said.

Catherine, the sister of Jack and Sarah's late mother, said she has been in contact daily with Jason's siblings who are currently in the States with the children.

Undated photograph of Sarah (8) and Jack (7), children of the late Jason Corbett, with their grandmother
Undated photograph of Sarah (8) and Jack (7), children of the late Jason Corbett, with their grandmother
Murder victim Jason Corbett

"I've spoken to Jack and Sarah and they sounded good. They rang my mother too, who is just out of hospital, and said they were coming home to mind her," Catherine continued.

"They came home every year, last year we got them home twice because they surprised us at Christmas.

"They have family coming over to them all the time too.

"There are two families for them here in Limerick, the Corbetts and the Fitzpatricks, we still have a close relationship since my sister passed away.

"I've also spoken to Molly Martens on the phone, I would have known her as I'm a big part of the kids' life. I was living with my sister at the time when she passed away and I spent over six months with the family afterwards," she continued.

"We were heartbroken for Jason, he never properly grieved for my sister, we thought the trip to America would help.

"It's very difficult for a man to lose the love of his life.

"Now it's time to bury Jason and let his family grieve.

"The children will have both families here, we're all close, we live close to each other and we work together. They'll have the best of the best," she added.

Asked if the children will be on the first plane home after the final custody hearing, Catherine replied: "I would imagine they will be very eager to get home."

Jason Corbett, who was originally from Janesboro in County Limerick, died after an alleged assault during a domestic disturbance at his home in Panther Creek Court in Wallburg, North Carolina.

Following the death, his children were put in the care of their stepmother despite his sister and her husband being were named as legal guardians in his will following the death of the children’s mother in 2006 from an asthma attack. 

Speaking to RTE Radio 1's Sean O’Rourke show, John Corbett, Jason’s oldest brother, said attempts by Ms Martens, his brother’s second wife, to apply for custody of Jack (10) and Sarah (8) had “inflicted a level of pain on my entire family that is totally unforgivable”.

Read more: Hundreds attend vigil for children in US custody battle after murder

“[She] could have avoided all of this by just humanely handing these children back to their rightful family.

“She and her family even obstructed us from getting my brother back to Ireland for two days,” Mr Corbett told the RTE show.

“It is inhuman how they’ve acted over the last two weeks… they stopped my brother from getting access to Jason’s body for two days.

“These poor children must be so traumatised by all of this – especially Jack because he remembers his poor mom dying seven years ago.

“They will need so much nurturing and care over the next few years… [but] with the love and care they will receive from their true family, they will recover and heal.”

Read more: Jason Corbett's father-in-law told 911: 'I struck him with a baseball bat'

Ms Martens and her father, Thomas Martens (65), have been named as 'persons of interest' in the death of Jason Corbett.

Investigating officers say they are not looking for anyone outside of the home in relation to the incident.

A hearing for guardianship was held on Friday and a North Carolina official presiding over the case ordered on Monday that the children be taken from the care of Ms Martens.

Presiding over the case, Brian Shipwash, Clerk of Davidson County Superior Court,  determined it was "in the best interest of the minor child that to appoint applicants Tracey and David Lynch, paternal aunt and uncle, as guardians of the minor child."

On foot of the order officials from the state's Department of Social Services travelled to where Ms Martens was staying with the children and removed them from her custody.

The children were brought to the Davidson Department of Social Services Office in Lexington, where they waited until they were collected by Tracey and David Lynch on Monday night.

Read more: Corbett's second wife tried to adopt children

Under the order from Mr Shipwash, all concerned parties have to attend a custody hearing later today, where it is expected that the judge in charge of the guardianship case, Jude April Woods, will dissolve the hearing in light of Mr Shipwash's ruling.

 The children will have to stay in North Carolina until then, but the ruling will bring the Lynches one step closer to bringing the children back with them to Limerick.

 "I’m sure for the judge to make this decision, he must have seen my sister and her husband were the rightful place for the children to be," Mr Corbett added.

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