Sunday 18 March 2018

Martens murder trial: Ex-FBI agent allegedly told co-worker he 'hated' son-in-law Jason, court hears

Thomas Martens and his daughter Molly Martens Corbett. Inset Jason Corbett
Thomas Martens and his daughter Molly Martens Corbett. Inset Jason Corbett
IN THE DOCK: Molly Martens-Corbett has cut a demure figure. Picture: Mark Condren
Molly Martens Corbett enters court with her lawyer Walter Holton. Picture: Ralph Riegel
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Murder accused and former FBI agent Thomas Michael Martens (67) allegedly told a co-worker in a US federal agency that he "hated" his Irish son-in-law, Jason Corbett (39).

A North Carolina murder trial heard legal argument today that Mr Martens allegedly told a co-worker in a special security unit of the US Department of Energy that "he hated Jason" and also had disdain for his son-in-law's Irish family.

Mr Martens and his daughter, Molly Martens Corbett (33), both deny the second degree murder of the Limerick father-of-two at Panther Creek in North Carolina on August 2 2015.

Mr Corbett died from multiple blows to his skull in the bedroom of his luxury property.

The blows were so violent and caused such damage to his skull that a pathologist couldn't make an accurate count and could only estimate that Mr Corbett suffered at least 12 blows.

Mr Martens and his daughter have argued self-defence in their Davidson County Superior Court trial.

The former FBI agent claimed that he interrupted a dispute between his daughter and his son-in-law early that morning in which Mr Corbett was allegedly attempting to strangle the young woman.

Mr Martens said he struck Mr Corbett with a baseball bat to defend both himself and his daughter.

Jason Corbett and his wife Molly
Jason Corbett and his wife Molly

Today, in legal argument before Judge David Lee, Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown outlined evidence the prosecution proposes to introduce from a female employee, Joanne Lowry, who worked alongside Mr Martens in the US Department of Energy to a decade.

Both were co-workers in a security unit which specialises in counter-intelligence at the federal agency.

Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin argued the proposed evidence is relevant in that it goes towards potential malice as required by the second degree murder definition.

Ms Lowry said that it was "common-knowledge" in the Oakridge unit in Tennessee that Mr Martens disliked his Irish son-in-law and his family.

"He hated Jason," Mr Brown said the co-worker will recall Mr Martens as telling her.

Ms Lowry said Mr Martens expressed his dislike for Mr Corbett in a general conversation.

"We have a room where we do classified work," she said.

"I went into the room - the computers are side by side. Tom was by me. I asked him how his weekend was.

"He said the children were down (for the weekend)."

He said: 'You are always glad to see them come but you are always glad to see them go."

"(He said) That son-in-law - I hate him."

The statement was allegedly made two months before Mr Corbett's death.

Ms Lowry added that, at the time of Mr Corbett's marriage to Mr Martens daughter in 2011, he also expressed dislike of the Irishman and his friends.

"Jason and his friends - they were going to be at the wedding and were at the house," she said.

"He was not very fond of Jason and his rowdy friends.

"They were very rowdy in the home. Rude."

"It was common-knowledge among all the employees (in the unit) that Mr Martens had disdain and dislike for Jason Corbett and that he often acknowledged or made statements to that effect," Mr Brown added.

Both defence lawyers, David Freedman and Walter Holton, objected to the evidence on the basis it was potentially prejudicial and "double hearsay."

Earlier, a forensic DNA expert confirmed that Jason Corbett's DNA was found on a baseball bat and a garden paving brick recovered from the bedroom of his blood-soaked home where he was discovered with fatal head injuries.

His DNA was also found on the pyjamas of his second wife, Molly Martens Corbett, and the polo shirt and boxer shorts of his father-in-law, Thomas Michael Martens.

It also emerged that hair found embedded on the blood-soaked garden paving brick matched the microscopic profile of the Limerick father of two's hair samples.

The North Carolina murder trial heard from forensic DNA expert Wendell Ivory that his tests for DNA proved positive on both the Louisville Slugger Little League baseball bat and the garden paving brick recovered in Mr Corbett's bedroom in his Panther Creek home on August 2 2015.

Mr Ivory, an expert with the North Carolina State Crime laboratory, said he conducted tests on the baseball bat, the paving brick as well as items of clothing including a pyjamas, a red polo shirt and pair of boxer shorts.

The clothing was taken by Davidson County police from Thomas Martens and Molly Martens Corbett.

"There was generalised staining of the bat. There were multiple indicators present of blood on the bat," Mr Ivory said.

He said the DNA tests on the items matched the DNA sample received from Jason Corbett.

Mr Ivory said the match was 1 in 1.99 trillion chance compared to the North Carolina DNA Database for the Caucasian population.

The brick found in the blood-spattered bedroom yielded a total of 25 hairs for forensic inspection.

North Carolina State Crime Laboratory official Melanie Carson told Judge Lee and the jury of nine women and three men that 12 of the hairs recovered were, under analysis, consistent with the hair samples taken from Mr Corbett's scalp.

Five the hairs found on the brick were grey and required mitochondrial root DNA testing rather than simple microscopic analysis.

The other hairs could not be definitively identified though one strand had both similarities and differences to Molly Martens Corbett's hair sample given to Davidson County Sheriff's Department.

That single hair strand could not deliver any conclusive analysis.

Ms Carson said that hair-like material recovered from the end cap of the baseball bat could not deliver a conclusive analysis for identification purposes though one strand could have come from Jason Corbett.

The trial also heard North Carolina State Crime laboratory fingerprint expert, Adrianne Reeve, reveal that no identifying fingerprints were found on the blood-soaked Louisville Slugger baseball bat found at the scene.

Ms Reeve said fingerprint-type ridges were found in a dark red dried substance believed to have been blood.

"There were no identifying latent (hidden) print on Item 1 (baseball bat)," she said.

"(I) saw some ride detail - but there was not sufficient quantity or quality of it available," she said.

The trial, which is now in its eleventh day, continues.

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