Saturday 18 January 2020

Forensic evidence gathered the night Jason died formed the heart of the case

The late Jason Corbett
The late Jason Corbett

Ralph Riegel

North Carolina assistant district attorney Greg Brown insisted Jason Corbett's blood screamed out for justice.

In truth, it was the very life blood of the Limerick father of two that held the key to the four week murder trial launched over his 2015 killing.

The Davidson County prosecution case entirely hinged on circumstantial evidence - with forensic science at its very heart.

Pathologist Dr Craig Nelson was able to reveal the horrific nature of the skull injuries sustained by Mr Corbett in the bedroom of his home - blows powerful enough to rip skin and scalp off his head.

He suffered at least 12 blows from a metal baseball bat and a concrete paving brick - up to four of which may have been sustained post mortem or after he was already dead.

Paramedics commented on how "cool" his body was when they arrived within minutes of a 911 call being made at 3.02am on August 2 2015 - amid suggestions his wife, Molly Martens Corbett (33), and his father-in-law, Thomas Michael Martens (67), had deliberately delayed making the emergency call.

Corbett murder trial co-defendant Molly Corbett arrives at the Davidson County Courthouse on Monday morning. [Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch]
Corbett murder trial co-defendant Molly Corbett arrives at the Davidson County Courthouse on Monday morning. [Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch]

The prosecution also had the 14 minute long 911 call played amid the suggestion the father and daughter had engaged in "fake" CPR attempts.

But it was the work of crime scene examiner, Lt Frank Young, and blood pattern expert, Dr Stuart James, on which the entire trial revolved.

Lt Young exhaustively photographed and videoed the Panther Creek home as well as later the persons and clothing of both Ms Martens Corbett and Mr Martens.

Both were found to be totally uninjured at the scene.

Mr Corbett's blood and tissue were found all over their clothing.

They had spatters of his blood in their hair, faces and even on Mr Martens wristwatch face.

Thomas Martens (right) arrives for trial at the Davidson County Courthouse. Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Thomas Martens (right) arrives for trial at the Davidson County Courthouse. Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch

The father and daughter were also found to have little or no blood on their hands - despite having apparently conducted 600 chest pumps between them on the blood soaked body of Mr Corbett on the bedroom floor.

It was left to Dr James to piece together the sequence of savage blows in which the Janesboro packaging executive lost his life.

Dr James is a world-renowned expert - he has written a definitive book on blood pattern analysis and has worked as a teacher and consultant worldwide.

His study of the Panther Creek photos and the clothing of Ms Martens Corbett and Mr Martens was revealing.

He found that it was likely the first blow sustained by Mr Corbett was when he was either in or near his bed - with blood impact spatters on the quilt and a blood saturation spot by the skirting board of the box spring mattress.

Dr James also found that repeated blood impact spatter marks on the walls indicated that Mr Corbett's head was struck as it was descending or falling towards the ground.

He found that, at one point, Mr Corbett's head was struck just inches off the carpet.

Molly Martens-Corbett
Molly Martens-Corbett

Such was the violence of the blows that parts of his detached scalp were visible on the floor.

The weapons used, a Lousville Slugger metal little league baseball bat and a stone garden paving brick - were stained with the Limerick man's blood.

The paving brick had Mr Corbett's blood on every single surface.

Molly Martens Picture: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Molly Martens Picture: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch

When it was lifted by forensic experts off the carpet, it left its outline behind in Mr Corbett's blood.

Dr James also found both hair and tissue material embedded in the brick.

He ruled that, such was the concentration of blood and tissue matter on the brick, it was inconsistent with it having struck Mr Corbett just a single time.

The trial also heard, in one of the sole revelations from the statement Ms Martens Corbett made to Davidson County Sheriffs officials on August 2, that she kept the brick on her nightstand table.

Dr James was also able to confirm that Mr Corbett fell face-down onto the bedroom floor, just inside the doorway.

He appears to have been in that position for long enough for a major blood stain to form by his head.

Mr Corbett, who was naked, had also suffered blunt force trauma injuries to his face, arms, legs and torso.

His nose had been fractured.

On the walls near the body were a series of unexplained indentation marks in the plaster board walls - each being circular and roughly the size of a baseball bat head.

Critically, from an analysis of the clothing of the two defendants, Dr James was able to determine they were both in close proximity to Mr Corbett as his head was being repeatedly struck.

Blood spatters on the inside left hem of Mr Martens boxer shorts indicated, according to Dr James, that he was standing above Mr Corbett when a blow was struck.

In Ms Martens Corbett's case, blood and tissue matter on the lower portions of her pyjamas indicated she was beside her husband when he was likely on or near the ground and having his head struck.

"We are trying to recreate a very dynamic scene where there was a lot of movement," he explained.

Such was the detailed analysis of blood staining that Dr James was able to determine a vacuum cleaner had been moved at the scene - because a dried blood mark on the canister had dripped against gravity.

Interestingly, no identifiable fingerprints were found on the baseball bat despite the fact it was soaked in blood.

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