Saturday 24 March 2018

'A really nice guy' who found love again, but whose life was ended in the most brutal way

Work colleagues will never forget him, writes Conor Feehan

Jason Corbett
Jason Corbett
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Jason Corbett's life ended in a sustained and frenzied baseball-bat attack by his father-in-law in his home in Davidson County, North Carolina, in the early hours of August 2, 2015.

But life for Mr Corbett began nearly 6,000km away where he was born and brought up in Janesboro in the south of Limerick city.

Mr Corbett and his first wife Margaret 'Mags' Fitzpatrick were childhood sweethearts, according to her mother Marian.

Mags ran a crèche in Raheen, around a 10-minute drive from Janesboro, and the couple married when they were in their 20s.

Marian Fitzpatrick said her daughter and Mr Corbett were soul mates and had a happy marriage.

Their first child Jack was born in 2004, followed two years later with the arrival of their daughter Sarah.

But when Sarah was only three months old, the family was thrown into tragedy when Mags died of an asthma attack in 2006.

Heartbroken, Mr Corbett had to carry on raising his children while at the same time working in the packaging plant in the city where he was a manager.

Two years later, in 2008, he sought an au-pair to help look after Jack and Sarah, and this is when Molly Martens entered his life. Having answered his ad, the Tennessee woman moved to Limerick.

Here she carried on the daily tasks of helping with running the house and the children's education.

As time passed, the relationship between Mr Corbett and Martens deepened and they became a couple.

But she was growing increasingly homesick. A point in time came when they had to decide where their lives were going.

He was able to organise a job relocation in a separate division of the company he worked for, and was appointed plant manager at Multi Packaging Solutions on the outskirts of Lexington in North Carolina.

Read More: Highly emotional scenes in courtroom as Jason Corbett finally gets justice

They and the children made their move to the US, and the couple married there in 2011.

Mr Corbett's colleagues all speak highly of him. They say he was friendly, approachable, fair, and easy to get along with.

While they were intrigued with his Limerick accent, and often couldn't understand what he was saying in the beginning, their ears grew accustomed to his Irish brogue, and his accent softened slightly.

"He would have his hurley stick with him, and would bounce the ball on it with great skill while he was doing other things like conference calls. He was very proud of his roots and would teach us Gaelic words and phrases," said one colleague.

Dale Miller, a pre-press employee, described him as "very likeable and very approachable".

"He knew business, he loved the business, he loved the employees. He was just a really nice guy," he said.

"Every day was an adventure. I loved him. He liked us, he was personable, if he didn't have the answer to something, he knew somebody who did. Lexington and this plant is like an extended family, and he fit right in, really well. He was about family and this was his family," he added.

The court case that has played out over four weeks in Lexington has painted a gruesome picture of the night Thomas Martens attacked Mr Corbett with a baseball bat after he claimed he heard a loud argument upstairs.

Murders are a rare enough occurrence in the southern state, Bible-belt Davidson County, and when the killing became news it sent shock waves throughout the community. Mr Miller and other colleagues described it as "surreal". "It was devastating and heart-wrenching," he said.

Today, there is a memorial plaque and a tree in the car park outside Mr Corbett's office, which is soon to be named as a boardroom in his honour.

On the anniversary of his death last week, colleagues launched green, white and orange balloons in his honour. They say he is a man who they can never forget.

In Panther Creek Court in the Meadowlands estate outside Lexington, the house where Mr Corbett was killed stands silent and lifeless.

Neighbours, now used to the sight of reporters and television crews, give little away when asked about the couple. "They were good neighbours, nice people," said one man who did not want to give his name.

Nobody openly takes sides, they just want to get on with their lives, but it is hard to escape the fact that for the present No 160, once a house and home, is now a monument to murder.

Irish Independent

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