Sunday 20 October 2019

Lawns, deckchairs and cold beers: Jason Corbett's final hours before the violence

Jason Corbett
Jason Corbett

Ralph Riegel in Lexington

It was a typical scene from middle America with no inkling of the violence to come. Two next-door neighbours and friends, Jason Corbett (39) and David Fritzche, sat on deckchairs outside their homes in the searing heat of an August day in North Carolina, sipping cold beers and proudly surveying the lawns they had just mowed.

But little did Jason Corbett realise that, as he sat chatting with his friend at 8pm by the driveway outside their homes, in less than seven hours he would be pronounced dead.

The Fritzche family were the last people - aside from Molly Martens-Corbett and her father, Thomas Michael Martens - to see Mr Corbett alive.

Yet tragedy seemed a world away from the two company executives - Mr Corbett worked for a packing firm and Mr Fritzche was an accountant with a manufacturing company - as they sat outside beautiful homes that echoed the American success story.

The beautiful Panther Creek homes were built on three levels and situated in a development that boasted a golf course, tennis court and other amenities.

For most Americans, they represent the pinnacle of family living. Both families had two children - both having one boy and one girl.

"There was a friendly relationship between the two families - I considered Jason a friend," Mr Fritzche told the Davidson County trial.

At one point, Mr Fritzche was asked to identify Ms Martens-Corbett (33), who denies the second degree murder of her husband, as does her father Mr Martens (67), as she sat directly across the courtroom.

It was lost on nobody in Courtroom C that, almost two years ago to the day, the two families had gathered together outside their homes.

When Mr Fritzche finished mowing his lawn, he walked next door and helped his neighbour - a gesture typical of suburban America.

"I started my mower and I followed behind him to help him complete his lawn sooner," he explained.

Once finished working in the searing heat, the two friends sat down to relax and enjoy cold beers taken from the refrigerators in each of their garages. The friends chatted from 3.30pm until after 8pm.

They were joined at about 4.30pm by their two wives, Ms Martens-Corbett and Michelle Fritzche.

Jason was a good golfer. "He was certainly better than I was," Mr Fritzche explained to smiles around the courtroom. Mr Fritzche said they had consumed about seven or eight beers each. He stressed that there was absolutely no inkling of anything being wrong or untoward.

His friend was, he said, not impaired from the beers they had drank and he noticed no change in his demeanour.

The neighbourly gathering ended when Molly's parents arrived for a weekend visit.

Davidson County Superior Court heard that hours later, Jason's blood-soaked body would be lying on a stretcher in an ambulance.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News