Nightmare retrial | 

Family of murdered Irishman Jason Corbett 'overwhelmed' by support in the US

Mr Corbett was beaten to death by his American wife, Molly Martens and his father-in-law, Tom Martens

Jason Corbett's family had been told a retrial could happen in May or June. Photo: Corbett family

Ralph Riegel

The family of murdered Irish businessman Jason Corbett (39) have been overwhelmed by support in the US as they face into the nightmare of the retrial of his killers, Tom (71) and Molly (37) Martens.

Friends, former US work colleagues and North Carolina neighbours of the Limerick-born packaging industry executive - who was beaten to death in August 2015 by his American second wife and father-in-law - have rallied to show support for his Irish family and his two orphaned children, Jack (17) and Sarah (15).

The appearance of the two children at a pre-trial hearing in Lexington on Friday - the first time they have ever attended court proceedings over their father's killing - dominated newspaper headlines and TV bulletins across North Carolina.

Both teens attended the Davidson County Superior Court administrative hearing before Judge David Hall in Lexington.

Molly Martens

Their attendance alongside Mr Corbett's sister, Tracey Corbett-Lynch, her husband, Dave, and siblings, Dean and Adam, was aimed at showing the Irish family's ongoing support for Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank and his team.

It also signalled that both children would be available to offer crucial testimony to support prosecutors in the retrial later this year.

Neither Jack nor Sarah offered evidence at the first trial - though an emotional victim impact statement, written by Jack, was delivered on his behalf during the 2017 sentencing hearing.

The prosecution team will be led at the retrial by Alan Martin, Kaitlyn Jones and Marissa Parker.

Evidence from the two children is now expected to prove crucial at the retrial as it will address the defence insistence that disputed statements the children made North Carolina social services in August 2015 be admitted into evidence.

The refusal of the original trial judge, Judge David Lee, to allow the statements into evidence was central to the Martens winning their appeal.

Judge Lee ruled out the statements as they were flatly contradicted by statements the two children had made on their return to Ireland in August 2015, just a few days later.

Testimony of both children is now set to prove crucial to prosecutors in the second trial, a date for which will be formally set on May 23.

Mr Corbett, a widower, was beaten to death by his American second wife, Molly Martens and his father-in-law, Tom Martens, in the bedroom of his Winston-Salem home in August 2015.

The duo were unanimously convicted of second degree murder after a high profile five week trial in 2017 and sentenced to 20-25 years in prison.

They were released after serving three and half years behind bars when they won first a challenge to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2020 and, finally, an appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court last year.

Mr Martens, a retired FBI agent, and his daughter, a former nanny, claimed they acted in self-defence in killing Mr Corbett.

Both said they feared for their lives that night.

However, both were totally uninjured at the scene while Mr Corbett had suffered so many blows to the head from a metal baseball bat and a concrete paving slab that a pathologist could not accurate count them.

Prosecutors also claimed there was evidence Mr Corbett was first struck while asleep in bed, that an attempt had been made to drug him, that he was beaten even after he was dead and that both Tom and Molly Martens delayed calling emergency services to ensure he was dead.

Mr Corbett's family are adamant the killing was sparked by his determination to bring his children back to Ireland amid mounting concerns over his wife's increasingly bizarre behaviour.

He had repeatedly refused requests - including a plea from Tom Martens - to sign adoption papers which would have given Molly Martens equal rights to his children.

Ms Martens had met Mr Corbett when she travelled to Limerick to work as a nanny for his two children.

They commenced a relationship and married in June 2011.

Mr Corbett relocated his young family from Limerick to North Carolina after his Tennessee-born wife repeatedly complained of feeling homesick.

But just weeks after the wedding Ms Martens went to see a divorce lawyer to ascertain her rights to Mr Corbett's two children.

The pair are now facing a high-profile US retrial which a North Carolina judge has already attempted to ring-fence from so-called "media exploitation".

Molly and Tom Martens

Judge David Hall issued a firm warning to both defence and prosecution teams not to make any extra judicial comments to the media in advance of the pending retrial.

Judge Hall noted the tremendous coverage the case has already attracted - and warned he was determined to ensure nothing was done to interfere with the delivery of justice and the provision of a fair trial.

Both the Martens and Corbett families declined to comment to the US and Irish media after the pre-trial hearing in Lexington, North Carolina in the wake of Judge Hall's stark comments.

However, the Irish family were deeply moved by the scale of the support shown to them last week in North Carolina.

The family were "totally overwhelmed" by offers of hospitality, calls of support and solidarity from former friends and work colleagues of Jason Corbett.

That even extended to two members of the 2017 jury which convicted Tom and Molly Martens attending Friday's hearing to show their personal solidarity with the Corbetts.

Following the hearing, former jury foreman Tom Aamland and juror Nancy Perez greeted members of the Corbett family outside the court and embraced them.

The Irish family - while touched by the level of support shown to them - were disappointed that the retrial will not now proceed as initially indicated in May/June.

Both Jack and Sarah are facing into important exam years in Irish secondary schools and their family did not want their studies disrupted by a lengthy North Carolina retrial in the new 2022/2023 school year.

While the date for the retrial will not be agreed between prosecutors and defence teams until May 23, it is not expected to be staged before late summer or early autumn.

Given that significant new evidence is likely to be entered, the retrial is expected to last seven weeks or longer.

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