THE second wife of Limerick man Jason Corbett and her ex-FBI agent father have appeared in court in the US where they both have been formally charged with second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Molly Martens Corbett, 32, and her 65-year-old father Thomas Martens have been charged in relation to the death of the 39 year-old father of two in his home in North Carolina on August 2 last, where he was struck with a baseball bat during a domestic disturbance.
Ms Martens and her father arrived at the Davidson County courthouse flanked by about a dozen supporters.
There they met the District Attorney by appointment and surrendered themselves to answer the charges they face. They were then arrested, photographed and fingerprinted and brought before the Superior Court.
If convicted of second degree murder the pair may face up to 40 years in prison, while voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 17 years.
Both Ms Martens Corbett and Mr Martens applied for bail, and it was not opposed by the District Attorney.
Bail was granted on condition that $200,000 is lodged with the court by each of the defendants and that they surrender their passports and agree to cease all contact with Mr Corbett’s immediate family, specifically his two children, Jack and Sarah.
Superior Court Judge Theodore Royster agreed to the bail conditions, commenting that it worked well when lawyers could reach agreement.
Both of the accused remained silent during the brief court appearance. No date for trial has yet been set, though it is expected to be held in the coming year.
The Winston Salem Journal posted video footage of Ms Martens Corbett and Mr Martens entering jail overnight.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mike Earnest, an uncle of Molly Martens, said he believes she and her father will be exonerated in the forthcoming trial, in which he said they will plead not guilty.
“I have known Tom Martens for 44 years and Molly since she was born 32 years ago, there are no finer people you would care to meet. The actions of self-defence that Tom and Molly took the morning of August 2nd were completely necessary and justified.”
In a statement released to the media, Mr Earnest also said Jason Corbett’s death was the result of self-defence and that Thomas Martens was the one who called 911.
“Tom has dedicated his entire adult life to law enforcement and believes firmly in the sanctity of the justice system,” Mr Earnest said.
“Since the 911 call Tom made that morning, both Tom and Molly have co-operated fully with the investigation and made themselves available every step of the way. They will both enter pleas of not guilty and once the events of August 2nd are presented, they will be exonerated.”
In a statement, Tracey Lynch, Jason’s sister, and her husband, David, welcomed the decision of the grand jury.
“We want to express our appreciation to Davidson county District attorney Gary Frank and Davidson County Sheriff David Grice and his investigators for their hard work and determination to uncover the truth. We want all of the facts to go in front of a jury so that we can all know the truth.
“We continue to grieve over the murder of Jason. Jason’s children are doing well given what has happened. We are thankful that they are in Ireland, surrounded by loving family,” they said.
Following Jason’s death, members of his family flew from Limerick to the United States where they fought an intense custody battle over his two children from his first marriage.
However a judge in North Carolina dismissed an appeal by Ms Martens, who sought custody of the children who are both from Jason’s first marriage to Mags Corbett, who died in 2006 after suffering an asthma attack.
The dismissal of Ms Martens appeal followed a guardianship ruling which was handed down the superior court of North Carolina, which stated that it was in the children’s best interests to live with their aunt, Tracey Lynch.
- For more see the weekend editions of the Limerick Leader