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Tuesday 25 September 2018

Jason 'was so badly beaten pieces of skull fell out onto table'

Molly Martens is charged with the second-degree murder of her husband, Limerick man Jason Corbet. Photo: Winston-Salem Journal
Molly Martens is charged with the second-degree murder of her husband, Limerick man Jason Corbet. Photo: Winston-Salem Journal

An Irish businessman was so brutally bludgeoned with a baseball bat and a garden paving brick that pieces of his skull fell out onto a surgical table during the post mortem.

A North Carolina district attorney revealed during the opening of the Jason Corbett murder trial that the Limerick father-of-two was struck at least 10 times over the head.

However, the damage to his skull was so severe that a post mortem couldn't even determine precisely how many times he had been hit with the two implements.

Molly Martens (33) and her father, retired FBI agent Thomas Michael Martens (67), both deny the second-degree murder of Mr Corbett (39).

The court also heard that the post mortem revealed traces of a powerful sleep drug that had been prescribed for his wife, Ms Martens, just days earlier.

Jason Corbett. Photo supplied by the Corbett family.
Jason Corbett. Photo supplied by the Corbett family.

Mr Corbett did not suffer from the sleep issues for which the drug was prescribed.

His wife received a prescription for Trazodone on July 30, just three days before his death.

The father and daughter have pleaded not guilty to murder on August 2, 2015.

Blood-spattered

In a dramatic opening statement at their trial, prosecutor Alan Martin revealed that Mr Corbett was bludgeoned to death in the master bedroom with a baseball bat and a garden paving brick.

Mr Martin said that despite their 2011 marriage, Ms Martens remained only a stepmother to Mr Corbett's two children by his late first wife and he was apparently considering moving back to Ireland.

The district attorney also said that while Mr Corbett was discovered in the bedroom naked and blood-spattered, there wasn't a mark on either his wife or his father-in-law when police and paramedics arrived.

Molly Corbett arrives at the Davidson County Courthouse in Lexington, North Carolina, USA.
Molly Corbett arrives at the Davidson County Courthouse in Lexington, North Carolina, USA.

"Thomas Martens had no injuries, no bruises, no swelling, no cuts and no blood appeared to come from him," he said.

"Molly Martens had no bruises, no swelling, no cuts and no blood appeared to come from her."

At least one blow was sustained when Mr Corbett was already dead.

Multiple blows were sustained to two specific areas of the back of his head.

"His skull was badly crushed," he said.

When a Davidson County sheriff arrived at the scene early that morning, a paramedic warned him: "It is bad."

Thomas Martens at Davidson County court house for pre-trial motions. Photo: Mark Condren
Thomas Martens at Davidson County court house for pre-trial motions. Photo: Mark Condren

When the paramedic attempted to help Mr Corbett, he attempted to move his head and found the back of his skull to be "squishy".

"There was nothing that could be done," Mr Martin said.

"Jason Corbett left that room on a board and his head was badly crushed."

During the post mortem, a pathologist moved his scalp and "pieces of his skull fell out onto the table".

Pieces of his shattered skull had also been driven into his brain.

"It was like a hard-boiled egg that had been dropped on the counter," Mr Martin said.

"It was not two, it was not four, it was not six and it was not eight. It was at least 10 times he was struck."

The only mark on Ms Martens at the scene was, he said, a little redness on her neck akin to "a sunburn".

Mr Martin said that at the scene Ms Martens was also asked repeatedly to stop rubbing her neck.

"That was how they walked out of that room - but Jason Corbett left it on a board," he said.

Both Mr Martens and his daughter also refused emergency medical treatment at the scene.

Mr Corbett's blood was found all over the bedroom floor and the walls, as well as in the hallway and bathroom.

Mr Martin told the jury that expert medical, forensic, pathology and pharmacology evidence would be introduced at the trial.

Blows

Blood spatters showed that Mr Corbett had been subjected to a sustained series of blows, with blood-spray patterns indicating that he was, at one point, near the ground when his head was struck.

"The State will try to address (the question of) why didn't they stop?" Mr Martin said.

Both defence teams are arguing self-defence and defence of another in the incident.

David Freedman, for Mr Martens, claimed that the retired FBI agent heard noises coming from an upstairs bedroom of his daughter's home early that morning.

On going to investigate, he will claim that he was shocked to find Mr Corbett holding his daughter by the throat.

"Jason's hand was around Molly's throat - his little girl had her husband's hand around her throat," he said.

Mr Freedman said Mr Martens instructed Mr Corbett to release Ms Martens.

He claimed that the Limerick man replied: "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be doing this."

However, he said Mr Corbett then put his entire arm around his wife's throat.

Kill

"I am going to kill her - I am going to kill her," Mr Freedman said his son-in-law replied.

At this point, Mr Freedman said Mr Martens used a baseball bat that he had brought from Tennessee for his grandson in order to protect his daughter and himself.

Mr Freedman pointed out that Mr Corbett was much bigger than either of the defendants.

Walter Holton, defence lawyer for Ms Martens, said that a strand of the Tennessee woman's hair was later found in Mr Corbett's hand.

Police statements also indicated that she was in shock at the scene.

The prosecution's opening witness was Karen Capps of the Davidson County Emergency Call Centre.

She confirmed she took a 911 call from Thomas Martens at 3.02am on August 2.

The entire 911 call was played to the jury and Ms Molly Martens began weeping, wiping her eyes and nose with a tissue.

In the call, Mr Martens told the dispatcher his son-in-law had sustained serious head injuries.

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. He stayed calm throughout the call. He said he hit him (Mr Corbett) in the head with a ball bat."

The dispatcher said that automatically made the call an issue for both paramedics and the Davidson County Sheriff's Department.

Ms Capps said she instructed Mr Martens to check Mr Corbett's airways, to place him on his back and to begin CPR until paramedics arrived.

Ms Capps said she noted that Mr Martens did not at any time during the lengthy call appear out of breath or gasping despite the fact he had been asked to do 400 chest compressions.

His daughter, Molly, was being asked to do 200 compressions in relief of her father.

"I noticed he was not out of breath," Ms Capps said. "He did not sound like most people sound. He wasn't panting or gasping or out of breath."

"There was a lot of communication back and forth but he was not out of breath."

Ms Capps said Molly Martens came on the phone.

"She was very tearful - a little excited I guess would be a good word."

At one point, Ms Martens was shouting out the CPR count. "She counted like she was yelling, like she wanted to make sure I heard she was counting."

The case continues today and is expected to last three weeks.

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