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Thursday 19 October 2017

Jason 'may have been in bed' when he suffered the first blow to head

Thomas Martens is accused, along with his daughter Molly, of murdering Irishman Jason Corbett
Thomas Martens is accused, along with his daughter Molly, of murdering Irishman Jason Corbett

A forensic scientist has said Irishman Jason Corbett may have sustained the first blow to his head while he was in or beside the bed in his home.

The revelation came as a former US federal agency co-worker of retired FBI man Thomas Michael Martens (67) also told a court in the US that he had commented on how he "hated" his Irish son-in-law.

The comment was allegedly made only two months before Mr Corbett's death.

The North Carolina murder trial of Mr Martens and his daughter, Molly Martens (33) - who both deny the second-degree murder of Mr Corbett (39) on August 2, 2015 - heard blood spatter evidence from Dr Stuart James.

Dr James, who has written a book on the analysis of blood patterns, is considered one of the foremost US experts in the field and has taught on the subject worldwide.

He told the Davidson County murder trial that he found blood spatters on the inside of the quilt on Mr Corbett's bed, in addition to a blood saturation mark inside the box-spring mattress.

He said they may well have been from the first blow struck on August 2.

Skull

The Florida-based expert examined the home where Mr Corbett sustained at least 12 severe blows to his skull.

The multiple blood traces required him to separate the scene into 15 different areas for examination.

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.

"There was a pattern of impact spatters on the inside of the quilt," Dr James said.

"There was also a small saturation stain on the skirting of the mattress.

"It may well be where the first incident of bloodshed occurred."

Dr James said he noted a number of indentation marks on the walls of the bedroom and hallway, indicating that they were struck by a hard object.

He said the house contained large impact blood spatters, transfer blood marks and blood stains where a damaged body part had laid.

He also found patterns where blood had been sprayed by a blood-covered object being swung.

Critically, Dr James noted that, in one area, blood spatter patterns indicated Mr Corbett's head was impacted as he was falling to the ground.

One impact spatter occurred just inches off the floor, indicating that Mr Corbett's head was either on or near the floor.

"These patterns are consistent with the impact on Mr Corbett as he was descending to the floor," said Dr James.

He noted that one element of the scene had been changed.

He said a vacuum cleaner which was standing upright had been clearly lying on its side at one point.

"The flow patterns are defying gravity," he said.

"The flow pattern on the cleaner is going sideways.

"They are significant because they tell me the vacuum cleaner was on its side at one point.

"It shows alteration of the scene prior to these photographs being taken."

A blood transfer pattern on the bedroom wall is also consistent with Mr Corbett's head having impacted on it as he fell.

Dr James said it appeared Mr Corbett was lying on his face and stomach when a lot of the heavier quantities of blood were left on the carpet.

He was later moved on to his back.

Dr James also studied blood spatters found on the red Izod polo shirt and white patterned boxer shorts of Mr Martens, and the blue patterned pyjama suit of Ms Martens, worn on August 2.

He compiled two reports for Davidson County District Attorney's Office on Mr Corbett's death.

In respect of the boxer shorts, he said blood spatters on the inside lower-hem were different in direction from those on the front of the underwear.

Four spatters were specifically noted.

"The source has to be from below," Dr James said.

"The blood droplets had to travel upwards."

Dr James said he considered the blood spatters on the boxer shorts to be generally part of "one pattern".

"Based on their location, size, shape and distribution, they are characteristic of blood spatters we see," he said.

He also accepted, in cross-examination, that the spatters on the front and inside lower-hem of the boxer shorts are, in his opinion, indicative of being from two different blows, given the droplets involved.

The spatters on the upper front part of the boxer shorts are "consistent with the wearer being in proximity of Jason Corbett when blows were struck to the head".

Mr Martens and his daughter have argued self-defence in their Davidson County Superior Court trial.

Strangle

The former FBI agent claimed he interrupted a dispute between his daughter and his son-in-law early that morning, in which Mr Corbett was allegedly attempting to strangle the young woman.

Mr Martens said he struck Mr Corbett with a baseball bat to defend both himself and his daughter.

The trial also heard that Mr Martens told a former co-worker at 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.

Joanne Lowry worked alongside Mr Martens in the US Department of Energy for a decade.

Both were co-workers in a security unit that specialises in counter-intelligence at the federal agency.

Assistant district attorney Alan Martin said the proposed evidence was relevant in that it went towards showing potential malice, as required by the second-degree murder definition.

Ms Lowry said it was "common knowledge" in the Oakridge unit in Tennessee that Mr Martens disliked his Irish son-in-law and his family.

"We have a room where we do classified work," she said.

"I went into the room - the computers are side by side. Tom was by me. I asked him how his weekend was.

"He said the children were down. He said, 'You are always glad to see them come but you are always glad to see them go.

"[He said] 'That son-in-law - I hate him'.

"He was in a pretty good mood - until he commented. There and then his mood changed."

Ms Lowry added that, at the time of Mr Corbett's marriage to his daughter in 2011, Mr Martens also expressed dislike of the Irishman and his friends.

"Jason and his friends - they were going to be at the wedding and were at the house," she said.

"He was not very fond of Jason and his rowdy friends.

"They were very rowdy in the home. Rude."

Both defence lawyers, David Freedman and Walter Holton, objected to the evidence on the basis that it was potentially prejudicial and "double hearsay".

A forensic DNA expert previously confirmed that Mr Corbett's DNA was found on a baseball bat and a garden paving brick recovered from the bedroom of his blood-soaked home.

Brick

His DNA was also found on the pyjamas of Ms Martens - his second wife - and boxer shorts of his father-in-law.

Hair found embedded on the blood-soaked garden paving brick matched the microscopic profile of the Limerick father-of-two's hair samples.

The murder trial also heard from forensic DNA expert Wendell Ivory, who said his tests for DNA proved positive on both the baseball bat and the garden paving brick recovered from Mr Corbett's bedroom on August 2.

Mr Ivory, an expert with the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory, said he conducted tests on the baseball bat, the paving brick and items of clothing including pyjamas and a red polo shirt.

The clothing was taken by Davidson County police from Mr Martens and his daughter.

"There was generalised staining of the bat. There were multiple indicators present of blood on the bat," Mr Ivory said.

He said the DNA tests on the items matched the DNA sample received from Mr Corbett.

Mr Ivory said the match was a one in 1.99 trillion chance, compared with the North Carolina DNA database for the Caucasian population.

The brick found in the bedroom yielded a total of 25 hairs for forensic inspection.

The trial is due to continue tomorrow.

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