Friday 24 January 2020

Thomas Michael Martens weeps as he recounts repeatedly striking Jason Corbett with metal bat

Thomas Martens and his daughter Molly Martens Corbett. Inset Jason Corbett
Thomas Martens and his daughter Molly Martens Corbett. Inset Jason Corbett
Thomas Martens and Molly Martens Corbett. Photo: Donnie Roberts of The Lexington Dispatch
Molly Martens Corbett arrives at the Davidson County Courthouse where she is on trial with her father Thomas Martens for the second degree murder of her husband Jason Corbett. Picture: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Molly Martens-Corbett arrives at the Davidson County Courthouse Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Thomas Martens (right) arrives for trial at the Davidson County Courthouse. Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Murder accused Molly Martens-Corbett arrives for trial at the Davidson County Courthouse. Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch

Ralph Riegel

RETIRED FBI agent Thomas Michael Martens (67) broke down and wept as he said he repeatedly struck his Irish son-in-law with a metal baseball bat over the head because he feared for his life and the life of his daughter.

Mr Martens fought back tears as he offered evidence for the first time in his Davidson County Superior Court murder trial in the US.

Mr Martens and his daughter, Molly Martens Corbett (33), both deny the second degree murder of Jason Corbett (39) in North Carolina on August 2 2015.

Mr Corbett, a father of two from Limerick, died from horrific head injuries in the bedroom of his luxury Panther Creek property outside Lexington.

His skull was effectively smashed by at least 12 blows to the head.

Both his father-in-law and wife were found by police and paramedics to be uninjured after the incident.

"I hit him until I thought that he could not kill me," Mr Martens said.

"He said he was going to kill Molly."

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

Mr Martens said he was visiting his daughter and son-in-law with his wife, Sharon, and had gone to bed around 11pm on August 1.

He said his son-in-law had consumed both beers and a cocktail.

Mr Martens said he was awoken by loud sounds from the master bedroom early on August 2.

"I heard thumping like loud footfalls. I heard a scream and loud voices."

The retired FBI agent and lawyer said he grabbed a baseball bat and went to the bedroom to investigate.

"In front of me, I would say seven to eight feet from me, Jason had his hands around Molly's neck," he said.

"They were facing each other."

"I said: 'Let her go'. He said: 'I am going to kill her.' I told him again, several times, to let her go."

"He was really angry and I was really scared."

Mr Martens said he struck Mr Corbett with the baseball bat.

He claimed Mr Corbett attempted to back into the bathroom with his daughter.

"I was concerned he would get to the bathroom and close the door and that would be the end of that."

"I would not be able to save her."

Mr Martens said he repeatedly struck Mr Corbett with the baseball bat but, at one point, Mr Corbett shoved him away and managed to grab the bat.

Mr Martens said he jumped back up off the floor and rushed Mr Corbett.

Somehow, he said he managed to regain control of the bat from the younger man.

"I did not want to hit Molly. His head was taller than hers."

Mr Martens claimed his son-in-law had his daughter in a choke hold and he was afraid when he saw the young woman stop trying to wiggle.

"I don't know how many times I hit him in the head."

"I was scared. That's what I remember. I am shook up."

"Molly was screaming (at Jason); 'Don't hit my Dad.' Things looked pretty bleak."

Mr Martens said he was convinced that if he fled the bedroom his daughter would have been killed.

"If I get out of the bedroom he is going to kill Molly. He is bigger, stronger and younger than me."

"I felt both our lives were in danger."

"I just did the best I could."

Eventually, he said his son-in-law fell to the ground after repeated blows to the head.

"He goes down - I started thinking a little more clearly. Molly is in bad shape. I told her to find a phone. I said he had to call 911."

Mr Martens admitted he did not like his son-in-law.

"He was not my favourite person," he said.

"I did not like him. I am sure I said disparaging things about him."

Mr Martens said, during one wedding party in his house, he disliked the drinking, rowdiness, smoking and bad language of some of Mr Corbett's friends.

"We were superficially friendly - I am sure he knew I had some feelings about him," Mr Martens said.

In cross-examination Mr Martens said that, during his time in the FBI, he did receive training in the use of lethal and non-lethal force.

He also confirmed he had been based in Miami with the FBI at a time when it was extremely violent because of the activities of Cuban drug gangs.

Mr Martens admitted he told Davidson County detectives it was "a great time to be young in Miami" and said doors would be kicked in as part of criminal raids.

"I liked all my work with the FBI," he said.

Mr Martens acknowledged that he also told police that, during his time with the FBI, he grabbed a young agent during an operation and told him: "Make sure I don't do anything stupid."

He denied that he had any problems maintaining control.

Judge David Lee also today ruled as inadmissible a statement from Mr Martens about comments he claimed were made by the father of Mr Corbett's first wife.

Mr Martens said he was approached by Michael Fitzpatrick and told Jason was responsible for the tragic death of Margaret 'Mags' Fitzpatrick from an asthma attack in 2006.

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

David Freedman, for Mr Martens, stressed they were not suggesting that this was what had actually occurred in 2006 but that it reflected on the state of mind Mr Martens was in in the early hours of August 2 2015 when he claimed he struck Mr Corbett in self defence.

Mr Martens had described Mr Fitzpatrick as "uneducated" and claimed he also found him hard to understand.

However, Ina Stanton, for the prosecution, objected to the statement being allowed on the basis it was both highly prejudicial and inflammatory.

Ms Stanton also pointed out that Mr Fitzpatrick, before his death, had made a sworn statement to an Irish solicitor denying that he had ever made such a remark to Mr Martens.

Furthermore, Margaret Fitzpatrick's mother, Marian Fitzpatrick, and her sister, Catherine, gave detailed interviews in which they attested to the "loving and caring relationship" between Ms Fitzpatrick and Mr Corbett.

Judge Lee refused to allow the jury to hear the statement on the basis it was potentially prejudicial and misleading.

Judge David Lee told the Davidson County Superior Court jury of nine women and three men today that he expects them to be asked to start considering their verdict from Monday evening or Tuesday.

The defence case opened today and was dominated by the evidence of defendant Thomas Martens.

One character witness was also heard before the jury were sent home for the weekend and legal argument in their absence began.

The defence case is expected to conclude on Monday.

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