Monday 22 July 2019

Irishman's second marriage to US nanny began like a fairy-tale but ended in nightmare

Meeting Molly seemed like a second chance at happiness for young widower Jason

The family home in Panther Creek Court in Wallburg where Jason Corbett and his wife Molly Martens (inset) lived with his children
The family home in Panther Creek Court in Wallburg where Jason Corbett and his wife Molly Martens (inset) lived with his children
Jason Corbett

Ralph Riegel

It was the fairytale romance that ended in a nightmare of blood and death.

Molly Martens was the all-American girl, a blonde, glamorous former model and college swimmer.

Jason Corbett was the handsome Irish businessman whose soul-mate and wife, Margaret 'Mags' Fitzpatrick, died of a tragic asthma attack, leaving him with two children aged under two years.

He was just 30 when Mags died.

When the duo met after Mr Corbett advertised for a nanny/au pair to help him look after his children in 2008, it was as if the Fates had smiled kindly on the young widower and decided to offer him a second chance at happiness.

After seven months of work as a nanny, the couple first grew friendly and then a romance developed.

Molly Martens-Corbett outside the Davidson County Courthouse. Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Molly Martens-Corbett outside the Davidson County Courthouse. Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Thomas Martens [Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch]

Initially, all appeared well.

Molly - from Knoxville in Tennessee - doted on Jason's two young children, Jack and Sarah.

Jason was captivated by the young American woman.

In 2010, deciding to take their relationship onto a more serious level, they got engaged.

In June 2011 they married in a lavish ceremony at Bleak House in Tennessee, not far from where Molly's parents, Thomas and Sharon Martens, lived in Knoxville and had raised their four children, Bobby, Molly, Stewart and Connor.

Stewart was a talented baseball player and got on well with little Jack.

Thomas had taken mandatory retirement from the FBI after 31 years and then gone to work in the counter-intelligence security unit of the US Department of Energy at Oak Ridge.

A precise man, he addressed the Davidson County murder trial in clipped but polite tones.

It was clear he was deeply proud of his education, his federal service and his family.

It was also abundantly clear that he greatly disliked his Irish son-in-law.

Unfortunately, the wedding preparations marked the first major cracks in the relationship between the Martens and Jason Corbett.

Thomas Martens, who qualified as a lawyer in Georgia, didn't appreciate the drinking, smoking and coarse language of Jason and his friends at a pre-wedding party at his home.

Despite the fact the Irishman had contribute $49,000 towards the wedding ceremony costs, Mr Martens grew to dislike him for a variety of reasons.

The former agent said his son-in-law had failed to deliver on a promise to allow his daughter formally adopt Jack and Sarah.

Furthermore, he felt the Limerick native was "controlling" of his daughter.

Molly did not work save to do volunteer duties as a local swimming coach.

In fact, despite attending a prestigious university, her only job of note before she took up duties as the Corbett's nanny was a brief stint working in a restaurant.

She lived in a $390,000 home entirely paid for by her Irish husband - and had been given $80,000 to furnish it to her tastes.

Molly also drove a BMW SUV.

"I love my daughter," Mr Martens stressed to the trial.

But he said he had no knowledge of the fact Molly was engaged to a US boyfriend, Keith Maginn, before she relocated to Ireland.

The idyllic world of upper middle class life in Panther Creek was clearly not enough for Jason.

He was homesick for his native Limerick and lonely.

His friend, Lynn Shanahan, in a 2016 interview, said she believed Jason had gotten involved with Molly while he was still grieving for his beloved Mags.

"He was not emotionally ready at all," she said.

When Lynn visited her friend in North Carolina in 2012, she felt: "Everything had changed."

As early as 2014, Jason confided to his sister, Tracey, that he was thinking of moving home.

In September 2015, he was due to attend his father's 80th birthday part in Limerick.

But his family had only been told he would be attending with Jack and Sarah - there was no mention of Molly travelling.

Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin put it bluntly: "It was not all sunshine and roses (in the marriage)."

Mr Martens bluntly acknowledged during the trial he did not consider it a good marriage.

He had advised his daughter to consult with lawyers and consider a divorce.

However, Jason had repeatedly declined to sign adoption papers which would have given his second wife equal rights to his two children.

If there was a divorce, it was clear that Jack and Sarah would live with Jason.

"He did not measure up to what I thought my daughter's standards should be," Mr Martens stressed.

However, he acknowledged that, before the disputed events of August 2 2015, he had never seen or heard his son-in-law threaten his daughter.

Mr Martens also said he could not recall telling one colleague: "That son-in-law - I hate him."

Another colleague recalled Mr Martens as refusing to go on a joint family holiday to Washington because he didn't want to spend his vacation with: "That asshole."

The former agent bluntly denied that he was attempting to take the blame for the events of August 2 for his daughter.

Similarly, he also denied that, in concert with his daughter, he had murdered a helpless, unnamed and naked man lying on the bedroom floor.

Intriguingly, Mr Martens said at no time did his wife, Sharon, who was in a basement bedroom, ever come upstairs to see what the problem was that night.

This was despite his testimony that the sound of raised voices and a scream brought him from the same bedroom, armed with a baseball bat, to the master bedroom.

Mr Martens said he never called to his wife to ring 911.

His daughter, despite having apparently escaped from a near-strangulation incident and then seeing her father crush her husband's skull with a baseball bat, never called to her mother for support or to alert 911.

"Not that I recall," he said.

Despite forensic evidence that a blood-soaked stone garden paving brick was used to strike Mr Corbett multiple times, Mr Martens said he couldn't remember seeing it in the bedroom.

"I had no knowledge of the brick," he said.

"All I can tell is what I can tell you."

Mr Martens, despite forensic and pathology evidence that Jason Corbett's skull was shattered from repeated blows, said he cannot recall striking his son-in-law while he was prone and helpless on the carpet.

"I hit him until I considered the threat to be over," he said.

"I am trying to take responsibility for what I did."

"I am trying to tell you as truthfully as I can what I did."

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