CONVICTED killers Molly and Tom Martens are both one step closer to freedom today after US prosecutors accepted a manslaughter plea bargain from the pair over their killing of Limerick father and businessman Jason Corbett.
The father and daughter who beat the 39-year-old Janesboro native to death in 2015 appeared in court today (Monday) charged with second degree murder.
However, in a dramatic development, the murder charges were dropped after the Martens each accepted a single count of voluntary manslaughter.
Ms Martens, a former beauty queen and her retired FBI agent father, who remain on bail, could potentially walk free on the basis of time already served in prison. They will certainly not face as much of a sentence as they otherwise would have for murder.
Their sentencing hearing is expected to last for up to two weeks.
In 2017, Molly (40) and Tom Martens (73),were convicted for the second degree murder of the Limerick father of two in 2015 and sentenced to between 20-25 years in jail.
Their convictions were overturned in 2020 and they were remanded on bail for retrial that 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.
Today’s hearing was attended by Mr Corbett’s two children, Jack (19) and Sarah (17), as well as 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 from a severe asthma attack, were left orphaned by their father’s killing.
The teenagers’ aunt, Tracey 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.
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 at the time that Tom and Molly Martens delayed alerting 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 pathologist Dr Craig Nelson could not accurately count the number of blows to his head.
Mr Corbett had met Molly Martens when she flew to Ireland to work as a nanny for his two children in 2008, however Mr Corbett was unaware Ms Martens was not a qualified nanny and was suffering from serious mental health problems.
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.
Jack and Sarah attended a special balloon release last Sunday afternoon at the Lexington company managed by their father, in aid of North Carolina Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Sarah Corbett, who organised the event, said her father would buy balloons for her and her brother every November on the anniversary of the death of their mother.
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.