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Sunday 19 August 2018

My Brother's killer: Tracey Corbett-Lynch shares the untold story of her brother and Molly Martens

In an exclusive extract from her gripping new book, Tracey Corbett-Lynch remembers her murdered brother Jason as a caring and generous family man - and recounts how his killer Molly Martens let her mask slip to reveal her true nature on the day of their fairytale wedding

Jason Corbett and Molly Martens on their strained wedding day in 2011.
Jason Corbett and Molly Martens on their strained wedding day in 2011.
Handsome couple: Molly and Jason
Molly pictured outside the house with blood spattered on her face by Davidson County police just a few hours later
Molly Martens with her father Tom on her wedding day
Tracey, back left, along with her sister Marilyn and twins Jason and Wayne as children in the back garden of their home in Janesboro in Limerick
From left, sisters Marilyn and Tracey, friend Simone Dillon, Molly and friend Michelle O'Callaghan at a Limerick dinner celebrating Molly's forthcoming marriage to Jason. (Photo: Tracey Corbett-Lynch)
Guilty: Tom Martens arrives at the Davidson Country courthouse for the trial. Photo: Mark Condren
My Brother Jason by Tracey Corbett-Lynch and Ralph Riegel, published by Gill Books
Tracey Lynch-Corbett who has written a new book in her brother's memory. Photo: Mark Condren

'My reason for writing this book is simple, declares Tracey Corbett-Lynch. "I wanted to validate the truth - to oppose the lies of Tom and Molly Martens. Jason's life had been laid bare. He had been stripped of his dignity. He had no one to speak out on his behalf - until now."

In the early hours of August 2, 2015, Limerickman Jason Corbett was beaten to death in his bedroom at his home in Lexington, North Carolina, while his young children - Jack and Sarah - were sleeping just feet away. Thirty-nine-year-old Jason had himself lived through the horror of losing their mother, his adored wife Mags Fitzpatrick, to an acute asthma attack at age 31. In the depths of his grief Jason had found support and later love with Molly Martens - the striking blonde, all-American girl who had taken the role of au pair to the children in Limerick. In 2011, he had moved with Jack and Sarah to North Carolina to start a new life with Molly; a life that she would cruelly end just three years after their fairytale wedding.

In August 2017, Molly and her father Tom Martens, a retired FBI agent and counter-intelligence operative, were found guilty of the murder of Jason Corbett and sentenced to 20 years in prison. From the moment of Jason's death and throughout the trial they had tried to assassinate his character, as Tracey puts it: "They callously, insidiously and maliciously painted a gentle, kind-hearted, romantic husband and father as some kind of alcohol-fuelled brute and thug."

Despite Molly's strenuous attempts to keep hold of the children, custody of Jack and Sarah was given to Tracey, one of Jason's seven siblings. They now live in Limerick along with Tracey's husband, Dave, and her sons, Dean and Adam.

Molly pictured outside the house with blood spattered on her face by Davidson County police just a few hours later
Molly pictured outside the house with blood spattered on her face by Davidson County police just a few hours later

Justice may have been served when Molly and Tom were led away in chains but their legacy of lies still remains. And so, Tracey has teamed up with Ralph Riegel - the Irish Independent correspondent who extensively covered the story for this newspaper - to set the record straight. Their book, My Brother Jason, tells the true story of a kind and caring family man and gives a chilling insight into the woman who murdered him. Read on for an exclusive extract.

 

I stared at the body in the polished mahogany coffin and was shocked by the realisation that I didn't immediately recognise my own brother.

It certainly resembled my baby brother, Jason Corbett (39), yet somehow it just didn't seem to be him. The facial features were different, somehow subtly altered. Jason was always so proud of his appearance - he had been a handsome man with a distinctive, strong face that seemed to light up when he smiled. For a brief second, I recalled that there was a time when Jason had smiled a lot.

That smile could illuminate an entire room.

But the body in the coffin, dressed neatly in a smart navy suit, shirt and tie, seemed to have slightly different features - the face seemed almost altered or blurred, the line of the nose not like that of the Jason I remembered from growing up together in Janesboro in Limerick.

Molly Martens with her father Tom on her wedding day
Molly Martens with her father Tom on her wedding day

*****

So how do I explain what Jason was really like? He was the polar opposite to what Molly and her family had claimed in the bitter build-up to the court case. He was loving, upbeat, ambitious, smart, loyal and generous. Molly's happiness was a priority for him, along with the children. He was generous and did thoughtful things, like paying to fly Molly and her mother to New York for a weekend break. He funded holidays and cruises to the Bahamas with her family. He always insisted on doing his own share around the house and loved to cook dinner, especially when Molly wasn't feeling well.

That he was proud of his clever wife was an understatement. Jason was always talking about Molly's interests, views and achievements. She was interesting, well-travelled, articulate and well-educated. Jason fell in love with Molly and his love was loyal and true. In North Carolina, he went above and beyond to make his relationship with Molly work.

Jason wasn't just generous with Molly - it was his nature, especially with those he loved. He even arranged for Mags's parents, Michael and Marian, to fly to North Carolina to see their grandchildren. On another occasion he shared the cost with me of flying our father out to North Carolina for a visit. It turned out to be one of our treasured memories - all of us sitting outside a cabin in the Smoky Mountains with my father happily racing his grandchildren around the full deck that encircled it. I remember Jason's keenness to bring us to the Smoky Mountains national park. It was a beautiful day and the park was amazing. Dad was able to get near to bears in the wild. It was such a brilliant experience and a happy day.

My brother was nothing like the person described in the vile accusations levelled by Tom, Molly and their supporters. To me, it was like they took all of their own personality traits and mirrored them on to Jason. We were powerless and it was horrendous. He could not respond or defend himself - they had taken his life and now they were taking his good name. The Martens family's betrayal of him and all that he stood for was a blatant attempt to sway public opinion and help Molly and Tom evade justice. Their actions changed my perspective on the world for ever.

*****

Tracey Lynch-Corbett who has written a new book in her brother's memory. Photo: Mark Condren
Tracey Lynch-Corbett who has written a new book in her brother's memory. Photo: Mark Condren

Molly arrived in Ireland for the first time on 10 March 2008 with her all-American good looks, denim cowgirl outfit, bouncing blonde curls, beaming smile and a career resumé that made it seem Jason was the luckiest man on earth to have secured her nannying services. She stepped off the plane and into our lives with a heady mix of accomplishments, qualifications, stunning looks and magnetic personality that threatened to dazzle everyone she met. What none of us realised that miserable rainy day was that Molly had been carefully scrutinising au pair websites and job opportunities until she found exactly what she was looking for - a young, lonely widower with very young children.

She had first emailed Jason in early February 2008 and expressed an interest in the job he was advertising. Molly claimed she was a qualified Montessori teacher. She was also a graduate of the prestigious Clemson University and had been on the fringes of the US Olympic swimming team. She was even vetted as a foster parent. It was only years later we realised that all of these claims were lies.

*****

Bleak House was stunningly beautiful and bathed in searing Tennessee heat that June day in 2011. It would have been impossible to select a more magical venue for a wedding. The wedding was being held outdoors and the staff had even arranged for special lanterns to be hung from the trees and shrubs, which meant guests savoured an atmosphere that seemed straight from a Hollywood epic by nightfall. Fairy lights were sprinkled throughout the greenery under the covered walkway that descended from each tier of the garden and twinkled in the dusk. Soft music played in the background. The food was delicious, the service was impeccable and the staff couldn't do more to help guests enjoy their day. Dinner was served on a terrace with Bleak House as the backdrop and it was jaw-droppingly impressive. The house was chosen by Molly and, in particular, by her father, Tom. The ceremony was hugely expensive - yet it was specifically what Molly had wanted. She had wanted the full Disney-princess wedding. Almost 100 guests were invited. Jason had given €45,000 ($49,000) to Tom Martens towards the cost of the wedding, something he never told us about at the time. Tom readily accepted the cash - and certainly portrayed to everyone that he had carried the full cost. It was turning out to be a lovely day until the high-pitched screeching alerted us to the fact that something was badly wrong.

Molly was screaming and crying, creating an escalating scene and becoming the focus of every eye at the wedding. My panicked brain realised that Dave and myself were somehow involved in the awful soap opera unfolding in front of us even though we hadn't a clue what was happening. Adam, my son, wandered by sipping from a McDonald's soft-drink cup, blissfully ignoring the commotion. I cringed when I realised that most of the guests gathered on the lawn of Bleak House in this stunning Tennessee setting were now gazing over at Molly screaming at Dave, wondering what on earth was going on. Dave looked stunned.

Molly screamed at my husband as he sat beside her brother Bobby and his wife, Ellie. My son Dean told me later that Dave looked dumbfounded as Molly launched into a tirade against him, shouting, 'Do you realise what you have done? Do you realise what you have done - you have ruined my wedding. Do you not know how much this cost?' Dean said that Dave looked as if he wanted the earth to open up and swallow him as every eye in the wedding turned quizzically to stare at him. Dave is a quiet, reserved man who prefers to shun the limelight. But my husband is not someone to be trifled with. The instant Molly raised the issue of money, Dave turned in his seat and stared at her. "Two people got married here today, not just one. You paid for nothing." Molly stormed off from Dave and stomped over to Jason, who was dancing with Sarah. My brother refused to get involved in the drama. Molly then turned and dramatically ran up the stairs and back inside the house. She vanished in a flood of tears, her gorgeous princess-style wedding gown sweeping along behind her as she ascended the steps to Bleak House. If I hadn't been so mortified at what was happening, I would have laughed at how the drama resembled a Scarlett O'Hara scene from Gone with the Wind. Molly was quickly followed by her mother, Sharon. Her brothers seemed oblivious. I had begun to realise that they were used to this type of behaviour from Molly.

Guilty: Tom Martens arrives at the Davidson Country courthouse for the trial. Photo: Mark Condren
Guilty: Tom Martens arrives at the Davidson Country courthouse for the trial. Photo: Mark Condren

On the steps in front of me, one of Molly's bridesmaids, Suzannah 'Susie' West Vincent, was looking ashen-faced, her own family rushing to support and comfort her. What I hadn't realised initially was that, seconds before she had screamed at my husband, Molly had also verbally lashed out at Susie. A short time later, Susie, who was maid of honour, and her family quietly left the wedding. She was one of Molly's oldest friends but was apparently dismissed without a thought because of an incident most people would laugh at. I was staring in horror at Dave who was equally shell-shocked over what was going on. Molly seemed to have become even more irritated because Jason was staying out of the drama and hadn't come over to berate Dave.

Susie, a kind-hearted and bubbly person whom we had instantly liked, had been checking on the children's table at the wedding and realised that Adam looked crestfallen. She asked him what was wrong and he explained that he was allergic to eggs so he couldn't eat the meal and was hungry. Susie took him by the hand and brought him inside the house to see if the kitchen could organise something special for him. Unfortunately, the kitchen was closed by that stage and the bridesmaid, remembering a fastfood outlet from her drive to the wedding venue, decided to get him a Happy Meal and sort the problem. Adam was delighted. But when Molly spotted him walking across the lawn with the McDonald's cup she totally lost it. She started shouting at her bridesmaid, claiming she had gone to enormous lengths to organise a special meal and now her entire day had been ruined. Somehow, probably because Adam was our son, the blame was equally apportioned between the bridesmaid, Dave and myself. Jason gazed at us with a look of bewilderment and embarrassment on his face. After a short time, he slowly walked back into Bleak House to try and console his distraught new bride. One of the bridesmaids later told us they had seen Molly in the bridal changing room lying on a sofa, kicking and punching the pillows like a child having a tantrum.

Sharon Martens made it perfectly clear she blamed us when she privately took Dave to task minutes later. I didn't get a chance to chat to Jason on our own for the rest of the wedding day. The incident created an unspoken rift that was only resolved when Jason and myself had a long clear-the-air conversation when he flew home three months later.

*****

Privately, I was relieved that my elderly parents had not attended the wedding to witness Molly's behaviour. It was an ominous incident on a day that was supposed to be a fairy tale for all involved. The stunning bride, in her expensive princess dress, marrying the young, handsome Irish widower, with his two children deeply involved in the wedding ceremony as page boy and flower girl. It was supposed to be the most potent of symbols of a fresh start and a new, hopeful beginning. The stuff that romance is truly made of. Sadly, it was anything but.

*****

On the wedding day, after Molly vanished into Bleak House in tears, all I wanted was for it to be finished and for us to get out of Tennessee. My family were shell-shocked over what had just happened and felt deeply embarrassed. We were all mortified because, even though we had done nothing to cause the scene, no one wants to be seen to contribute in any way to spoiling such a special day. The rest of the wedding vanished in a blur of hushed conversations and furtive looks to see if the bride would reappear. I was weary of the mind games, the emotional roller-coaster and all the drama. During the wedding ceremony rehearsal, Molly had dramatically fainted. The heat in Tennessee had soared to 38 degrees Celsius (almost 101 degrees Fahrenheit) so if anyone should have fainted it should have been the frazzled Irish contingent who almost had steam coming from under their collars. In a rock-strewn piece of ground, Molly gently collapsed onto the only available stretch of grass. I saw members of her family rolling their eyes and walking away.

*****

The week leading up to the wedding had also been challenging. We had flown over for the ceremony a week early and, during our US stay, had decided to briefly link up with Dave's sister, Linda, who at that time was living in Atlanta, Georgia. Not wanting to impose too much on the wedding build-up, we rented a cabin in the Smoky Mountains on the Tennessee-North Carolina border, which was every bit as beautiful as it sounds. Molly and Jason met us at the cabin and Molly then invited me to attend her bridal shower or hen party the following evening. It was being held in Knoxville, which was almost a four-hour round trip away. I would have loved to attend but it would have ruined a full day for Dave, who would not only have had to drive to Knoxville but then wait around to drive us back to the cabin again. I politely apologised to Molly for not being able to attend but I got the impression she was offended by my non-attendance even though she had waited until just the day before to tell me about the party. It was as if she was deliberately creating specific situations where I appeared to be uncooperative to Jason. It was the beginning of years of trying to undermine our relationship.

*****

Tom and Sharon had kindly agreed to host a pre-wedding party for all the Irish 'in-laws' who had travelled over. We were told the party would be from 6pm to 9pm and would be a barbecue in the garden of their stunning home. I like to bring flowers to such events to thank the host but couldn't find a local florist so a bottle of wine from a local off-licence had to suffice. They didn't have coolers so the wine was at room temperature. When I gave the bottle to Sharon and thanked her for going to such trouble for us she simply replied: "Thank you for the bottle of warm wine." I didn't think it was a good start to the evening.

 

*****

I noticed there was no sign of Molly and was told she wasn't feeling well and was in bed with a headache. When I went up to see her, she was curled up in a ball on the bed and weeping. To be honest, I was shocked. I tried to comfort her and suggested that maybe she would feel better if she came outside into the sunshine and joined the children by the swimming pool in the back garden. She seemed pitifully sad in the bed and I couldn't help but think that this wasn't how a bride was supposed to be just days before her wedding. I gently gave her the special gift I had brought, a beautiful necklace, which I intended as a token of welcome to the Corbett family. I then left the room. But Molly remained deeply upset and never appeared in the garden to greet the guests.

When I went back outside, I tried my best to be sociable. Tom told me he had arranged a white-water rafting expedition for everyone at 8am the following day. I was stunned. It was the first I had heard of it and, given that we had only 48 hours to the wedding, I wasn't sure it was the best idea. I politely explained that we already had plans for the following day and couldn't avail of his kind offer. But I stressed how appreciative we were of his efforts. Privately, I thought an expedition like that needed to be flagged well in advance, particularly so close to the wedding day. But it was clear that Tom didn't take kindly to our decision to decline his invitation. He seemed very taken aback. From then on, I found him downright rude to us. I was so concerned by his attitude that I even offered to pay any costs that he might be out of pocket for from the rafting expedition.

If I'm honest, I found it impossible to fully relax at the party. There was a sense, commented on by all of us afterwards, that the atmosphere was one of barely concealed condescension. It was almost as if we were being gauged and judged, our behaviour and every comment being remarked upon. I put the atmosphere down to the fact that Tom, who can come across as quite arrogant, was simply being overly protective of his only daughter and maybe excessively careful towards his new Irish in-laws. But when that pre-wedding party was being discussed at Tom and Molly's 2017 murder trial, it was clear that something much deeper was involved. Tom had already taken an intense dislike to Jason.

*****

Molly wanted an exotic honeymoon so Jason took her to Cancun in Mexico. We were flying home the day after the wedding, and Jason and Molly were due to fly to their Mexican resort that evening. But first Jason called to our Knoxville hotel to say goodbye. Molly was with him and it was clear she was only there because Jason had insisted on it.

Molly attempted to apologise for her behaviour but immediately launched into a saga of how someone else was to blame for the entire debacle. With Molly, it was always someone else's fault. Dave wasn't having any of it, as he believed her apology wasn't sincere and was only being offered because Jason had insisted on it. He was also livid over her selfish behaviour. "You humiliated me in front of a hundred people and I have nothing to say to you," Dave told her. There was silence and then Molly fled down the hallway in hysterics. The 400km drive from Knoxville to Charlotte for our flight home was one of the longest journeys I can recall. We were all upset over the awful events of the previous few days. What shocked me most was that Molly was now totally unrecognisable from the person we had met in Limerick in 2008 - it was as if she had mutated into someone else. But the die was cast.

This is an edited extract from 'My Brother Jason' by Tracey Corbett-Lynch with Ralph Riegel published by Gill Books, available now at €16.99.

 

* Exclusive offer for Irish Independent readers: My Brother Jason for €15 plus free p&p (within

Ireland) RRP €16.99.

To order go to gillbooks.ie/ mybrotherjason and enter the code JASON15 at the checkout, or call 01 500 9570 and quote JASON15.

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