by John W. Taylor
After Jason Corbett’s first wife died from an asthma attack in November of 2006, he was forced to raise his two children, Jack and Sarah, alone in their homeland of Ireland. Jason hired an American, Molly Martens, as an au pair for his children. However, their professional relationship quickly turned romantic. They married in 2011 and moved to the United States. The couple and Jason’s two children settled into a four-bedroom house in a golf course community in Davidson County, North Carolina. From the outside, everything appeared idyllic.
On the evening of August 1, 2015, Molly’s parents, Thomas and Sharon, came to visit unexpectedly. Thomas was a retired 30-year veteran of the F.B.I. They arrived late, ate pizza, and retired for the evening to a guest room in the basement. According to Thomas, he awoke in the middle of the night to “loud voices and thumping.” He told his wife to stay in the basement. Thomas picked up a baseball bat and headed upstairs. He entered the couple’s bedroom to find Jason choking Molly. Thomas demanded Jason let her go, but Jason responded by saying that he was going to kill Molly. Thomas stepped forward and struck Jason in the head numerous times with the baseball bat. Upon Jason falling to the floor, Thomas immediately called 9-1-1:
Dispatcher: Davidson County 911, what is the address of the emergency?
Thomas Martens: My name is Tom Martens. I’m at 160 Panther Creek Court and we need help.
Thomas unnecessarily identified himself to the dispatcher. It was not clear why he provided this information. After providing the address, Thomas conveyed a generic plea for help without specifying whether he needed the police, fire department, or an ambulance. His opening statement failed to convey a sense of urgency.
Dispatcher: Okay, what’s going on there?
Thomas: My daughter’s husband, my son-in-law, got in a fight with my daughter. I intervened and I think – he’s in bad shape. We need help.
Thomas responded by identifying his relationship to the person who needed assistance. He provided this information twice. Repetition can often indicate stress. Plus, the information he provided was immaterial to the dispatcher. Thomas wasted time identifying himself and the victim. He continued by providing context (a fight) to the call without, again, providing anything pertaining to the actual emergency.
Thomas fought with Jason, but he described his actions as “intervening.” He continued by saying, “I think – he’s in bad shape.” Thomas, and it was later determined Molly, hit Jason multiple times with blunt instruments, including an aluminum baseball bat. Many of the blows struck Jason’s skull. For Thomas to state that he thought Jason was in bad shape, significantly downplayed the urgency of the situation. He ended his response with another vague plea, “We need help.”
Dispatcher: Okay, what do you mean he’s in bad shape, he’s hurt?
Thomas: He’s bleeding all over and I may have killed him.
Based on the information Thomas initially provided, the dispatcher did not even know if Jason was injured. Thomas ended his response with, “…I may have killed him.” This statement contrasted sharply with his previous statements. Inconsistencies in message can often indicate deception as the individual attempts to manage the information conveyed.
After the dispatcher confirmed the location, she instructed Thomas and Molly on how to provide chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The dispatcher counted as Thomas and Molly administered C.P.R. on Jason. When emergency personnel arrived they quickly determined Jason was beyond help.
Jason’s death sparked a custody battle for his two children. Molly pursued custody, even though Jason’s Last Will and Testament provided for his sister, Tracey Lynch, to raise his children. The custody hearings were quite contentious with Tracey claiming Molly physically and emotionally abused the children. Over Molly’s objection, the judge granted custody of Jason’s children to Tracey Lynch.
Though the victim initially treated Jason’s death as a self-defense scenario, it evolved into investigators believing Thomas and Molly murdered Jason. On January 6, 2016, police arrested Thomas and Molly for murder. A different story unfolded after the arrests. Molly claimed she was in an abusive relationship with Jason. According to Molly, he had a horrible temper, which he concealed from friends and family. Jason allegedly strangled and choked her numerous times during arguments. During his police interview, Thomas claimed that the father of Jason’s first wife told him he believed Jason killed his daughter, though this assertion could not be substantiated.
Social workers interviewed Jason’s children to determine if they witnessed any abuse in the home. During one of the interviews, six-year-old Jack said, “He [my dad] would physically and verbally hurt my mom.” Though potentially damaging, it certainly did not sound like a sentence a six-year-old would use. It sounded rehearsed. When prosecutors spoke with Jack, he stated that his dad never hurt his stepmom. In the end, it was only Molly’s word regarding the abuse she purportedly endured over the years. There were no police reports, injuries, or witnesses to corroborate her assertions.
To Molly, the night Jason died was a culmination of years of abuse and an almost inevitable event. She alleged that Jason became angry with her after she helped his daughter get back to sleep after a nightmare. Jason felt Molly coddled the children. According to Molly, as the fight escalated, Jason covered her mouth and then started choking her. When he stopped choking her, she screamed. Molly did not indicate why he stopped choking her. She went on to say, “The next thing I remember is my dad standing in the doorway.” Molly utilized the present tense verb is to describe past events, which can often indicate deception as the person creates the information in the present rather than remembering it. Further, Molly used the phrase “the next thing,” which conveyed the passage of time. It means she skipped details. What happened between the time she screamed and the time her father arrived in the bedroom? We do not know because she failed to explain this portion of the story.
When asked what he saw when he looked in the bedroom, Thomas responded, “It’s awful,” which was also in the present tense. According to Thomas, as he was standing in the doorway holding a baseball bat, Jason moved behind Molly and put her in a chokehold. Thomas continued, “Then he starts to edge toward the master bathroom.” Again, Thomas described the scenario in the present tense. He also utilized the word “starts” to describe the action. If an action starts then it means something stopped the action. However, Thomas failed to identify what stopped Jason’s action, which can indicate deception. Thomas then claimed that he hit Jason in the back of the head twice with the baseball bat; yet, the strikes purportedly did nothing to stop Jason from choking Molly. According to Thomas, as he swung the bat a third time, Jason caught it with his hand while choking Molly with the other. Jason pushed back on the bat and sent Thomas flying across the room. Molly also described this portion of the fight:
Jason just grabbed the bat away. It was like it was nothing. He could choke me with one hand – with one arm – and grab the bat with the other. He was just so much stronger.
At this point, Jason’s strength and fighting abilities seemed indestructible. Further, with Jason holding the baseball bat and Thomas on the floor, Jason possessed significant tactical advantage. Though the tide of the fight shifted strongly in Jason’s favor, this is when Thomas supposedly achieved the upper hand. According to Thomas, Jason was standing over him with a baseball bat, but Jason failed to strike him or Molly with the bat. Why not? Jason was allegedly filled with rage, but he chose not to strike them when he had the opportunity.
Thomas then purportedly grabbed the bat while lying on the floor. He and Jason struggled. While fighting for control of the bat, Thomas allegedly struck Jason with an elbow and then with his fist. Thomas stated, “And he goes down, and I’ve got the bat… and I back off.” Apparently, Thomas’ repeated blows to Jason’s head with a baseball bat had little impact, but his off-balanced punch dropped Jason to the floor, ended the fight, and killed him.
During her police interview, Molly admitted to hitting Jason in the head with a paving stone, which was located on her nightstand. Molly explained the presence of the brick-like object in the bedroom to police by saying the children planned to paint it. Thomas’ version of events did not account for Molly striking Jason in the head with the paving stone. When did this happen? Did it also have little effect on Jason? When pressed for details, Molly and Thomas’ stories exhibited inconsistencies.
During the summer of 2017, Thomas and Molly went to trial. The prosecution painted a different picture of what transpired within the couple’s bedroom. When paramedics arrived at the house, they found Jason nude on the floor. He had flaky dried blood on his face and chest and his body was cold. The condition of his body led the paramedics to believe Jason had been dead for quite some time, likely hours. While on the 9-1-1 call, Thomas and Molly supposedly performed at least two rounds of C.P.R. on Jason, but neither had blood on their hands even though Jason’s chest was covered in blood.
According to the autopsy, Jason Corbett died from “blunt-force trauma to the head.” The medical examiner, Dr. Craig Nelson, testified that Jason was struck on the head at least 12 times. His skull contained extensive fractures and appeared crushed. Jason had additional blunt-force trauma to his body, to include his hands, knees, and torso. He was severely beaten and some of the injuries were likely inflicted post mortem.
Sixty-seven-year-old Thomas Martens had no visible injuries, though he claimed to have been in a life-and-death struggle with a much younger man who was six feet tall and over 260 pounds. He emerged from the fight unscathed. Molly, who Jason supposedly tried to strangle to death, also had no visible injuries. There were some red marks on her neck, but when the crime scene photographer took her picture he had to repeatedly tell her to stop rubbing her neck. Jason had smeared blood on his hands and blood underneath his fingernails. Since Jason was the only person with injuries, the blood likely transferred to his hands from him touching and covering his wounds in self-defense. The injuries depicted a completely one-sided fight.
Blood covered the walls in the couple’s bedroom and bathroom. There were pools of blood on the floor. Both the baseball bat and the concrete paving brick were covered with Jason’s blood. According to blood-stain pattern expert Stuart James, many of the strikes inflicted on Jason occurred while his head was close to the floor. He based his conclusions on the fact that most of the blood spatter was low on the walls. Further, stains on the underside of Thomas’ boxer shorts and on Molly’s pajama pants indicated that the two of them were above and over Jason as they struck him.
The defense team tried to support their claim of self-defense by pointing toward a poorly processed crime scene. The defense argued that investigators never tested underneath Jason’s fingernails. However, since neither Molly nor Thomas had any injuries, investigators believed it was unnecessary. The defense’s argument only shed more light on the lack of injuries to the two defendants who claimed to be victims.
The prosecution presented several connected theories regarding motive. Molly wanted to adopt Jason’s children, but he would not allow it. She also stood to receive $600,000 from Jason’s life insurance policy. Molly, the State theorized, would collect the insurance money, and use it to raise the children. Prosecutors contended that Thomas had a deep-seated hatred of Jason, and this hostility coupled with Molly’s desire to be free, combined to create a deadly, grisly scene, which resulted in Jason’s demise.
When the jury went into deliberations, on the first vote, they voted 12-0 in favor of convicting Thomas. As one juror later said, “There was no doubt in my mind [regarding Thomas’ guilt].” However, the jury initially voted 10-2 to convict Molly, but after reviewing the evidence more closely, the jury ultimately determined she had a prominent role in Jason’s murder, with one of the jurors later speculating that Molly may have killed Jason, and Thomas merely helped cover it up. After a month-long trial, it took the jury less than two hours of deliberation to convict Thomas and Molly of second degree murder. Both were sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison.
Thomas was quoted as saying, “I didn’t murder my son-in-law. And I would challenge any reasonable man, much less a reasonable father, to say that this was unnecessary force.” Yet, the forensic evidence from the scene depicted two people savagely beating to death an unarmed and naked man with a baseball bat and paving stone. Twelve people found this scenario far from reasonable or necessary.
Finn, Jessica & Fegan, Catherine, “Inside the blood-spattered bedroom where former model and her ex-FBI agent father ‘slaughtered’ her Irish husband with a ‘baseball bat and landscaping stone,’” The Irish Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4781486/Inside-blood-spattered-bedroom-man-murdered.html, August 11, 2017.
Hewlett, Michael, “No fingerprints on baseball bat used to hit Jason Corbett,” Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com/news/crime/no-fingerprints-on-baseball-bat-used-to-hit-jason-corbett/article_361c2e42-183a-57ca-aed5-2738bf94129c.html, August 1, 2017.
Hewlett, Michael, “Closing arguments begin in murder trial of Thomas Martens, Molly Corbett,” Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.greensboro.com/news/crime/closing-arguments-begin-in-murder-trial-of-thomas-martens-molly/article_2eb91501-5fed-5911-a6da-d45799696202.html, August 8, 2017.
Leogue, Joe, “Why was Limerick man Jason Corbett killed?” Irish Examiner, http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/why-was-limerick-man-jason-corbett-killed-413544.html, August 2, 2016.
Pandav, Jillian, “Episode 33: Jason Corbett – Murder or Self-Defense?” Court Junkie Podcast, http://courtjunkie.com/ep-33-jason-corbett-murder-self-defense/, August 22, 2017.
Riegel, Ralph, “Listen: ‘He’s bleeding all over and I may have killed him’ – Full transcript of Martens’ 911 call,” Independent.ie, http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/listen-hes-bleeding-all-over-and-i-may-have-killed-him-full-transcript-of-martens-911-call-36013283.html, August 9, 2017.
Rose, Alex, & Black, Susanna, “Molly Corbett, Thomas Martens each sentenced to 20-25 years in prison,” Fox 8, http://myfox8.com/2017/08/09/molly-corbett-thomas-martens-each-sentenced-to-20-25-years-in-prison/, August 9, 2017.
Sheridan, Anne, “Prosecutors seek to dismiss Martens’ retrial bid in Jason Corbett murder,” Limerick Leader, http://www.limerickleader.ie/news/home/267242/prosecutors-seek-to-dismiss-martens-retrial-bid-in-jason-corbett-murder.html, August 27, 2017.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Autopsy, #B201502636, Jason Paul Corbett, performed by Craig Nelson M.D., August 3, 2015, report dated: August 26, 2015.
“The Last Ones Standing,” 20/20, http://abc.go.com/shows/2020/episode-guide/2017-08/11-081217-the-last-ones-standing, August 12, 2017.
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John W. Taylor writes in the true crime genre at www.truecrimewriting.com. He has written short pieces and articles on the death of Marilyn Monroe, JFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others. John wrote and published Umbrella of Suspicion: Investigating the Death of JonBénet Ramsey and Isolated Incident: Investigating the Death of Nancy Cooper in 2012 and 2014, respectively.