Saturday 17 March 2018

Jason's blood screamed out for justice - and it was the key to murder convictions

Forensics at heart of the prosecution’s case, writes Ralph Riegel

Molly Martens Corbett walks to the Davidson County Courthouse. Picture: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Molly Martens Corbett walks to the Davidson County Courthouse. Picture: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Ralph Riegel

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 after he was 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.

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The prosecution also had the 14-minute 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. 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 repeated blood impact spatter marks on the walls indicated 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.

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The weapons used - a Louisville Slugger metal little league baseball bat and a stone garden paving brick - were stained with the Limerick man's blood. The brick had Mr Corbett's blood on every surface.

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.

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

Blood spatters on the inside left hem of Mr Martens's 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.

Read More: 'Molly will be remembered as a murderer who killed my dad for no reason'

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.

Legal argument also proved crucial in terms of what the jury were and were not told about Molly Martens-Corbett and the state of her marriage.


Judge David Lee ruled as inadmissible statements taken in Lexington, North Carolina, in August 2015 from Mr Corbett's two children Jack (10) and Sarah (8), in the days after their father's death. The defence teams of Ms Martens-Corbett and Mr Martens wanted the statements admitted in support of their contention that the young woman acted in self defence on August 2 and was afraid of her husband at the time.

However, the children were interviewed again in Ireland and, with the support of child psychologists and lawyers, issued statements which contradicted elements of those in North Carolina they had made. Judge Lee confirmed his pre-trial submission ruling that none of the statements would be allowed into evidence. "There is some evidence of recanting by both children," he said.

Legal argument also swirled around an insurance policy on the life of Mr Corbett. Eventually, this was allowed into evidence and jurors were told that, after Mr Corbett's death, Ms Martens-Corbett became the main beneficiary for a $600,000 (€510,000) payout.

Another critical ruling was Judge Lee's refusal to allow a statement described as "inflammatory and potentially misleading" into evidence.

The defence team of Mr Martens wanted to introduce a statement whereby he recalled a conversation with Michael Fitzpatrick, the father of the late Margaret 'Mags' Fitzpatrick, Mr Corbett's first wife.

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The young Limerick woman died of an asthma attack in November 2006.

Mr Martens said in a statement: "(I) was approached by Michael Fitzpatrick (now deceased), the father of Jason Corbett's first wife...he believed that Jason had caused the death of his daughter, Margaret."

Assistant district attorney Ina Stanton opposed the submission and said the statement was highly prejudicial and inflammatory. Furthermore, she pointed out Mr Fitzpatrick had gone to a solicitor in Ireland and sworn a statement that he had never made such remarks.

Mags Fitzpatrick's mother Marian, and her sister Catherine, also issued statements that there was "a loving and caring relationship" between Margaret and Mr Corbett.

Judge Lee ruled the statement should not be allowed into evidence.

Irish Independent

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