Jason Corbett’s killers could walk free today in controversial plea bargain

Tom and Molly Martens

MOLLY Martens and her father Tom could both walk free today for the killing of Limerick father of two Jason Corbett as part of a controversial manslaughter deal, it has been reported.

The pair, who beat the 39-year-old businessman to death in 2015, are scheduled to appear in court today charged with the Janesboro father’s second-degree murder.

However, in the latest development, details of plea bargain deal, which has been hammered out in advance of today’s hearing in North Carolina, have been reported by Ralph Riegel of the Irish Independent.

It’s understood the Martens’ murder charge will be dropped if the pair accept a voluntary manslaughter count.

If the voluntary manslaughter charge is confirmed before Judge David Hall at Davidson County Superior Court in North Carolina, the former beauty queen and her retired FBI agent father could potentially walk free on the basis of time already served in prison.

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In 2017, Molly (40) and Tom Martens (73) were convicted for the second degree murder of the Limerick father in 2015 and sentenced to between 20 and 25 years in jail.

Their convictions were overturned in 2020 and they were freed on bail.

Alford plea

The voluntary manslaughter charge may be dealt with on the basis of an Alford plea, a special US legal mechanism whereby the defendants continue to maintain their innocence but acknowledge that the prosecution may have enough evidence to secure a conviction had the matter gone to full hearing.

The Martens retrial was to have taken place in North Carolina late last year but was postponed until June.

Last spring, an application by lawyers for the Martens to have the retrial moved from Davidson County to Winston-Salem in Forsyth County – over concerns about potential juror bias in Davidson County linked to social media coverage – was accepted.

It is now expected that Davidson County prosecutors and defence lawyers will make detailed sentencing submissions to Judge Hall if the plea bargain is formally ratified. The hearing will then become a bench trial sentencing hearing rather than a full retrial. Sentence on any manslaughter pleas will be imposed after a detailed outline of the case and both prosecution and defence legal submissions.

Corbett family in attendance at today’s hearing

Today’s hearing will be attended by Mr Corbett’s two children, Jack (19) and Sarah (17), as well as by Mr Corbett’s sister, Tracey Corbett-Lynch, her husband Dave Lynch, and extended family members and supporters.

Jack and Sarah Corbett, whose mother Mags Fitzpatrick died in 2006 after a severe asthma attack, were left orphaned by their father’s killing. Their aunt Ms Corbett Lynch became their legal guardian after winning a protracted custody battle against the Martens following her brother’s killing. 

Mr Corbett was beaten to death in the bedroom of his North Carolina home with a metal baseball bat and a concrete brick.

Jason Corbett
The late Jason Corbett.

Members of his family in Limerick have always maintained the attack by Molly and Tom Martens was sparked by a row over control of the two children.

The Martens have argued they acted in self defence, although both were found uninjured and without any defense wounds at the scene by police.

In the original 2017 trial, prosecutors argued that Mr Corbett was asleep in bed when he was set upon by Molly and Tom Martens.

The prosecution also suggested that an attempt had been made to drug Mr Corbett, and that he was beaten even after he was dead.

The trial also heard that Tom and Molly Martens delayed alerting the emergency services to ensure Mr Corbett could not be saved.

Paramedics who arrived at the scene expressed shock that the Irish packaging industry executive was cold to the touch.

Molly and Tom Martens argued they acted only in self defence after Mr Martens claimed Mr Corbett violently attacked his daughter and refused to release her when holding her by the neck.

Mr Corbett suffered such horrific injuries that a pathologist, Dr Craig Nelson, could not accurately count the number of blows to his head.

Mr Corbett first met Molly Martens when she flew to Ireland to work as a nanny for his two children in 2008. They married in the US in June 2011, and weeks later Ms Martens visited a divorce lawyer to ascertain her rights to Mr Corbett’s two children.

Ms Tracey Corbett Lynch has always maintained that her brother was killed as he was preparing to leave Molly Martens and bring his two children back with him to Ireland.