Friday 23 February 2018

'The most atrocious miscarriage of justice' - Molly Martens' uncle says family subject to 'spine-chilling' abuse

Molly Martens-Corbett being led away in chains to begin her sentence. Photo: Donnie Roberts
Molly Martens-Corbett being led away in chains to begin her sentence. Photo: Donnie Roberts

Sarah Slater

An uncle of convicted murderer Molly Martens-Corbett has broken his silence over what he calls her "shock" conviction and claims unheard court evidence will prove even further she acted in self-defence.

Martens-Corbett and her father Thomas Martens, a retired FBI agent and qualified lawyer, were convicted last Wednesday in Lexington, North Carolina, of the second-degree murder of Limerick father-of-two Jason Corbett.

Michael Earnest, a brother of Martens-Corbett's mother Sharon, who lives in Baltimore, Maryland, attended every day of the four-week trial.

He said the family firmly believed the jury would acquit her.

Mr Corbett (39) was found with fatal head injuries at their Panther Creek home in Wallburg, North Carolina, on August 2, 2015.

"The [trial] was very difficult. But we know that both Tom and Molly are completely innocent so we can't imagine a jury finding two innocent people guilty."

Molly Martens-Corbett with husband Jason: Unheard evidence ‘will prove she acted in self-defence’.
Molly Martens-Corbett with husband Jason: Unheard evidence ‘will prove she acted in self-defence’.

Mr Earnest, a Federal employee and part of the US Afghanistan Reconstruction programme, vowed the family will never stop fighting to prove their innocence and show they acted entirely in self-defence.

"We are all thoroughly devastated and shell-shocked. None of us saw this coming. It is so horrible.

"So much evidence from life at that house was never heard nor submitted in court. A lot of the evidence heard in court was taken out of context and never explained fully.

"All of this needs to be known and it will be. Our family is decimated by what has happened. The sheer vitriol and viciousness directed towards the extended family here is literally spine-chilling. The extended family have not broken the law, we are only trying to support our loved ones.

"People have even criticised our professional lives and the renowned work the FBI do. How can people be like that towards a law enforcement agency? We are all just decimated.

"Our lives have been put on hold and now we must face back to our normal personal and work lives which is just so difficult to do. How do you pick up the pieces? In my opinion, and in my personal life, this is the most atrocious miscarriage of justice I have ever been a part of."

The family are determined to fight the father and daughter's convictions and are currently fund-raising to pay for their appeal of the convictions.

The father and daughter had pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and claimed they acted in self-defence. But a jury of nine women and three men unanimously rejected their claims. The father and daughter are to lodge legal papers within the 90-day period legally allowed, with the North Carolina Court of Appeals, to challenge their murder convictions.

Timeline

Here is the story from the beginning:

November 2006: Jason Corbett’s wife Mags Corbett dies of an Asthma attack in their native Limerick. Their two children are very young at the time.

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Jason Corbett with his first wife, Mags

February 2008: Mr Corbett advertises online for a nanny to help with caring for the children. Tennessee native Molly Martens Corbett ends her relationship and engagement with Ohio-native Keith Maginn and travels to Ireland to work as an au pair for Jason Corbett.

2009: A relationship develops between the Irish widower and the young Knoxville woman after around seven months.

Autumn 2010:  Jason and Molly get engaged.

May 2011: The couple relocate from Limerick to Panther Creek, north of Lexington in North Carolina. Jason pays $390,000 for the house. Molly is given $80,000 to furnish it. Jason is now plant manager of Multi Packaging Solutions facility in Lexington.

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Panther creek Court, Meadowlands, Davidson County

June 4 2011: Jason and Molly wed in a lavish ceremony at Bleak House in Tennessee. Jason pays Molly's father, Thomas Martens, $49,000 towards the cost of the wedding.

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Jason Corbett and Molly Martens on their wedding day

2014: Jason confides to his sister, Tracey, he is lonely and homesick in North Carolina and is considering moving back to Ireland.

2014/2015 - Relationship between Jason and his father-in-law sours. Thomas Martens encourages his daughter to consult a lawyer and divorce the Irishman. Jason continues to decline to sign adoption papers giving his second wife equal rights to his two children. Thomas Martens admits he dislikes his son-in-law and has disdain for him and his family. He publicly disparages him.

March 2015: Molly rings Tracey to ask when the 80th birthday party planned for Jason's father will be staged that Autumn. Tracey finds the question strange.

August 1 2015

3pm - Jason decides to spend the Saturday afternoon mowing the lawn and is joined by neighbour David Fritzsche who has just finished cutting his grass. The duo, when finished, have a few cold beers sitting on deck chairs in their garden while their children play nearby.

8.30pm - Molly's parents, Thomas and Sharon Martens, arrive for a last minute visit. Molly has apparently placed multiple calls to the pair as they drive the four hours from Knoxville to Panther Creek. David Fritzsche says goodbye to his friend and takes his family out for dinner.

The last thing he sees is Jason helping carry the Martens luggage into his home. Included in the luggage is a metal Louisville Slugger baseball bat which Thomas Martens later says is a gift for young Jack Corbett.

3.02am - Davidson County emergency dispatcher Karen Capps receives a 14 minute 911 call from Thomas Martens who says he struck his son-in-law in the head with a baseball bat and may have killed him.

Despite being trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), neither Thomas nor Molly Martens begin life-saving efforts on Jason Corbett until told to do so by the dispatcher.

3.13am - The first emergency medical services officers arrived at the scene, Sergeant Barry Alphin and David Bent followed by a second unit of Amanda Hackworth and Carla Lane. One describes the blood-soaked scene as: "Bad in there - real bad. Horrible scene."

They move Jason Corbett's naked and blood-soaked body from the master bedroom to an ambulance outside. No heart rhythm is ever detected. Two paramedics comment on how cool the body appears and query whether there was any wait in calling 911.

3.16am The first Davidson County Sheriff's officer arrives at the scene, Corporal Clayton Dagenhardt.

3.24am Life-saving efforts on Jason Corbett are ceased and he is pronounced dead.

4am Crime scene examiner Lt Frank Young arrives at Panther Creek.

4am-5am - Both Thomas Martens and Molly Martens Corbett and brought by police to a Davidson County Sheriff's Office. They are interviewed, photographed and have their blood-stained clothing taken for forensic analysis.

August 3: Dr Craig Nelson conducts a post mortem examination on Jason Corbett. His head is so badly damaged that, when Dr Nelson attempts to adjust the scalp, pieces of skull fall out onto his surgical table. The blows to his skull are so violent and repeated that it is impossible to make an accurate count beyond that he suffered a minimum of 12.

August 4 - 9.30am: Molly, accompanied by her mother and uncle, arrive at the MPS plant to take Jason's personal belongings. One executive, who has not yet heard the circumstances in which Jason died, notices no sign of injury, scratch, bruise or abrasion to the young woman. Molly is wearing a T-shirt, jeans and has her hair tied up.

August 19 & 21: - Tracey Lynch and her husband, David, are given custody of Jason's two children in North Carolina despite legal efforts by Molly to retain their guardianship.

August 26 : Jason Corbett is buried in Castlemungret in his native Limerick.

January 6, 2016: Molly Martens Corbett and her father Thomas Martens are arrested and charged with second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter of Jason Corbett.

The pair were later released, each on a $200,000 bond, ordered to surrender their passports and to not have any contact with Jason Corbett’s family

June 8/9, 2017: Pre-trial hearings take place in Lexington ahead of the murder trial 

July 17, 2017: The painstaking jury selection process begins in Lexington. Judge David Lee tells potential jurors: "You will try to find the truth and reach a verdict or verdicts in this case. You alone will determine the truth."

12 jurors must be selected from a panel of 143 people and the entire process is lengthy and is drawn out for seven days.

July 25, 2017: The murder trial finally begins and the jury hears opening statements the District Attorney Alan Martin.

Graphic details are given about the nature of Jason Corbett’s injuries.  The court hears that damage to Mr Corbett's skull was so severe that a post-mortem couldn't determine precisely how many times he had been hit.

A full recording of a 911 call made to a dispatcher by Thomas Martens on the morning of the murder.

Karen Capps of the Davidson County Emergency Call Centre, confirmed she took a 911 call from Mr Martens at 3.02am on August 2.

Ms Capps, who has been an emergency call dispatcher for 16 years, said the call lasted around 14 minutes.

In legal submissions between the prosecution and defence to Judge Lee, Ms Capps outlined aspects of the call. "He (Mr Martens) was calm - surprisingly calm," she said.

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

July 26, 2017: The trial is momentarily paused after a female juror began retching in the jury box and had to briefly leave Courtroom C of Davidson County Superior Court when post mortem photographs of Mr Corbett's skull injuries were displayed.

North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner's Office associate pathologist, Dr Craig Nelson gives graphic details about the severe injuries caused to Mr Corbett’s skull in the attack.

Police who attended the scene told the trial that they told Mr Corbett’s children to close their eyes as they were carried from the house.

July 27, 2017: Lieutenant Frank Young of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office said he had to ask Molly Martens Corbett to stop rubbing her neck after the attack.

He noted that Ms Corbett had no injures after the incident.

July 28, 2017:  David Fritzche, neighbour and the last person outside of the Martens family to see Jason Corbett alive, gives evidence of how they sat on deckchairs and drank beers the evening before the attack.

Davidson County police officer David Dillard, who was tasked at the scene with staying with Ms Martens-Corbett at his patrol car, gave evidence.

He said: "She was making crying noises, but I did not see any visible tears.” He also said she was rubbing her neck.

July 31, 2017: Jurors are shown the baseball bat and blood-stained garden paving brick used to inflict fatal head injuries on the Limerick father-of-two.

August 1, 2017: Dr Stuart James told the trial that Mr Corbett may have sustained the first blow to his head while he was on or beside his bed.

Dr James also said a careful analysis of the multiple blood spatters and stains in the bedroom, hallway and bathroom of Mr Corbett's Panther Creek home indicated that, at one point, the father of two suffered multiple blows as he was falling to the ground.

The trial also heard that Thomas Martens told a former 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.

August 3, 2017: Forensic expert Dr Stuart James said impact spatters of Mr Corbett's blood on the inside hem of Mr Martens boxer shorts and the lower leg portion of Ms Martens Corbett's pyjama bottoms indicate both were close to the Irish businessman while he sustained a blow to his head when it was close to the floor.

Judge David Lee rejects applications from the defence teams of both defendants for the second degree murder charges against them to be dismissed after the prosecution case concluded.

August 4, 2017: Mr Corbett’s sister Tracey Lynch tells the court that her brother had mentioned moving back to Ireland as early as 2014, just three years after his relocation to the US and more than 12 months before his death.

Thomas Martens takes the stand and says he hit Mr Corbett to defend his daughter: "I hit him until I thought that he could not kill me.

"He said he was going to kill Molly.

"I actually felt he was going to kill me."

During a busy day of evidence it was heard that Ms Martens Corbett is the main beneficiary of a $500,000 insurance policy.

August 7, 2017: Ms Martens Corbett opts not to take the stand. She said she understood that no inference can be taken from her decision not to testify.

In closing statements Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown told the jury Mr Corbett's "blood now screams for justice.

"We will never know if Jason Corbett tried to cry out, did he plead for his life or did he think of his two children."

He claimed the Irish businessman was victim of "heinous, atrocious and cruel" attack.

August 8, 2017: Defence attorney David Freedman points out how his client has a 40 year unblemished career as an FBI agent.

He asks: “ Who is more likely to have snapped that night - a 65 year old grandfather who has protected us in his life from terrorists and drug dealers or a man, from his own mouth, feeling dizziness when not taking their medication.”

The jury is sent to consider its verdict.

August 9, 2017: Molly Martens and her father Thomas are found guilty of second degree murder. They are given sentences of between 20 and 25 years.

Irish Independent

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