Tuesday 15 October 2019

Martens murder trial: Gasps in court as photos of blood-soaked scene reveal Jason's last moments

A trial that has gripped both Ireland and America has heard evidence akin to a horror film, writes Ralph Riegel in Lexington

Molly Martens arrives at court in Lexington this week Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Molly Martens arrives at court in Lexington this week Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch

Ralph Riegel in Lexington

IN the shocked hush of the air-conditioned North Carolina courtroom, there was a single audible gasp as the photograph was projected onto the screen.

On the 2m by 3m screen, fixed on the wall between Judge David Lee and the Davidson County Superior Court murder trial jury, was an image of blood-soaked Irish father-of-two Jason Corbett (39).

The grim photograph was taken just minutes after he was pronounced dead by paramedics in an ambulance from horrific head injuries.

The distressing courtroom image was in stark contrast to the photos of the happy, hard-working and handsome family man from Janesboro in Limerick first used by the Irish and US media when he died on August 2, 2015.

The second-degree murder trial of Jason's second wife, Molly Martens-Corbett (33), and her father, Thomas Michael Martens (67), has finished its second week.

The trial has heard that, just over six hours before that gruesome photograph was taken, the Irish executive had sat with his neighbour, David Fritsche, outside their Panther Creek homes sipping cold beers in an impromptu family gathering.

The two men had mowed their lawns in the searing August heat of that Saturday and, enjoying their beers and their neighbourly conversation, they were soon joined by their wives, Molly and Michelle.

Read More: Molly Martens 'made crying noises but shed no tears' as Jason lay dead

The happy group sat for hours and chatted as their children played in the adjacent gardens.

Mr Fritsche's description of the scene was typical of suburban, middle-class America on any summer Saturday.

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

The accountant even had a Stars and Stripes flag flying from his porch. The spot where the duo sat, drank and chatted was just metres from where the Davidson County ambulance was parked with its tragic patient just a few hours later.

Mr Fritsche, who played golf and soccer with Jason, admitted he hadn't any inkling of what was to unfold just a few hours later to his friend.

The paramedics stopped their valiant but doomed efforts to save the Irishman at 3.24am that Sunday morning.

The alarm was first raised in a 14-minute 911 call made by Mr Martens at 3.02am.

In the call, he claimed he struck his son-in-law with a baseball bat after seeing him attacking his daughter.

Mr Martens claimed Jason first tried to strangle his wife and then threatened to kill her. Both the father and daughter are now arguing self-defence.

The 911 call was played in its entirety to the trial - and it was the only moment so far in the nine-day hearing when Ms Martens-Corbett displayed emotion, bowing her head and wiping tears away with a handkerchief.

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

When the photograph of Jason lying dead in the ambulance was projected onto the wall, both stared at it without any visible emotional reaction.

Paramedics initially arrived at 3.13am thinking they were dealing with a cardiac arrest but were quickly informed it was a suspected assault case.

Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel Sergeant Barry Alphin, David Bent and Amanda Hackworth were greeted inside the bedroom of the luxury property by a scene akin to a horror movie.

The jury viewed multiple detailed images last week which showed blood puddles and spatters on the walls, floor, bed, door and bedclothes of the bedroom.

A piece of scalp was clearly visible on the floor.

In the hallway, there was more blood and scalp matter.

There were multiple unexplained indentation marks on the walls.

Inside the bedroom, there was a blood-stained, 28-inch Louisville slugger baseball bat and a garden paving brick.

Lieutenant Frank Young, a crime scene examiner, revealed that when the paving brick was later lifted by forensic experts, it left its outline in blood on the bedroom carpet. There was also hair and scalp matter embedded in the brick.

Blood was also found in the bathroom and on a vacuum cleaner, the latter appearing to have been moved. There was so much blood that Davidson County police officers Clayton Dagenhardt and Rusty Ramsay, tasked with checking on Jason's two children, Jack and Sarah, asleep in an upstairs bedroom, carried the youngsters in their arms with the firm instruction to turn their faces in to the officers necks and close their eyes as they were brought downstairs.

The officers walked carefully backwards just to ensure the two children - who lost their mother, Margaret 'Mags' Fitzpatrick to an asthma attack in 2006 - wouldn't see the blood trails from their father's broken body as it was brought to the ambulance for emergency medical intervention.

Inside the ambulance, the stark photograph projected on the wall revealed that Jason was naked but visible only from the waist up.

The signs of medical intervention were obvious.

Two 'quick pad' cardiac patches from the Davidson County EMS team were still attached to his chest. He lay on a yellow body board and stretcher inside the ambulance. His hairy chest was smeared with blood.

Jason's face was already swollen, the area around one eye socket grotesquely enlarged.

His face was stained with blood to the extent that it was difficult to determine if he had been growing a tight beard or if the dark smudges were blood clots.

The back of his head was matted with blood.

His eyes were open, but such was the damage to one side of his face, it was hard to tell that both were.

They stared sightlessly upwards at the interior roof of the ambulance.

Seconds earlier, paramedic Sgt Alphin was trying to insert a breathing tube in Jason's chest and, to do so, had to adjust his head and chin.

The paramedic was appalled when, as he adjusted the back of the patient's head, his gloved hand and fingers slipped inside his skull through a gaping wound.

Pathologist Dr Craig Nelson confirmed that at least 12 blows were sustained to Jason's head - however, such was the damage to two particular areas to the rear of the skull, the precise number of blows could not be determined.

Such was the damage caused by the blows to the skull that Jason's injuries were comparable to those from a fall from a great height or a major car crash.

Vomited

So shocking were the injuries to Jason's head that, when the post-mortem photographs were first shown to the jury, a female juror promptly vomited.

From the moment the paramedics arrived at the luxury Panther Creek property, they never detected any sign of cardiac activity from the father of two.

Two paramedics, David Bent and Amanda Hackworth, were also both taken aback by how cool Jason's body was.

Ms Hackworth turned to Sgt Alphin and asked: "How long did they say they waited before they called 911?"

Sgt Alphin said he was told the call was made: "The minute he went down."

Outside the ambulance, Thomas Martens and Molly Martens-Corbett were being attended to by first paramedics and then Davidson County Sheriffs officers.

Neither was found to have any injury.

Throughout, Mr Martens was calm and co-operative.

He only became agitated when, in a patrol car on his way to the Davidson County station, an officer declined his request to close the driver's window.

Ms Martens-Corbett was distressed at the scene, making crying noises but was not seen to be visibly weeping.

She had told one paramedic her husband had attempted to choke her.

But Mr Bent said he could only see "a light redness" on one side of her neck.

Later, when Lt Young took photographs of the parties involved, he had to ask Ms Martens-Corbett to stop rubbing her neck.

"Ms Corbett was continually pulling and tugging on her neck with her hand. I asked her to stop doing that. After several requests, she did [stop]."

Photographs taken both at the scene and in a Davidson County police station show no injury whatsoever on either the father or daughter.

The only signs of tragedy were bloodstains on their clothing and bodies.

Mr Martens had blood on his red shirt, on his hands and fingers and even a large blood spatter on his watch.

Jason Corbett's blood would also deliver the first major surprise of the trial.

Toxicology tests revealed traces in his system of the sedative Trazodone.

The medication was not prescribed for the Irishman - but it was for his wife.

Ms Martens-Corbett had received and filled a prescription for the drug, known for its sleep-inducing properties, on July 30 - just three days before her husband's death.

The prosecution case, led by Assistant District Attorneys Greg Brown, Alan Martin and Ina Stanton, is expected to continue until Wednesday.

The defence case, led by David Freeman and Jones Byrd for Mr Martens and Walter Holton and Cheryl Andrews for Ms Martens-Corbett, is expected to take a further four days.

It remains unclear whether Mr Martens or Ms Martens-Corbett will testify.

However, two of Mr Martens' three sons will offer defence evidence.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News