In August 2015, businessman Jason Corbett was found bludgeoned to death in the bedroom of his North Carolina home.
The father-of-two – who was 39 and originally from Ireland – had been beaten with a baseball bat and concrete brick, sustaining so many injuries that a coroner was unable to count them all.
Shortly afterwards, Jason’s second wife Molly Martens, 40, and her father Thomas, 73, who is a former FBI agent, were arrested and later found guilty of second degree murder.
Both the father and daughter claimed they acted in self-defence – but the second degree murder charge meant the jury concluded Jason was killed out of malice. They were both sentenced with 20-25 years in prison.
But in 2020, an appeals court overturned the judge’s decision to block Jason’s children’s original statements from being read.
Last month, the father and daughter entered plea deals to voluntary manslaughter: Corbett pleaded no contest and Martens pleaded guilty to the charge.
Following their pleas, Davidson Superior Court Judge David Hall sentenced Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens to spend between 51 and 74 months in prison, news outlets reported.
Each will serve only seven months behind bars, thanks to good behaviour sentencing reduction earned during the 44 months they’ve already served, their attorneys said. Each had previously been sentenced to serve from 20 to 25 years.
Here FEMAIL takes a look back over the twists and turns of the gruesome case that has gripped the US and Ireland for the past eight years.
Fairytale romance turned nightmare
In 2006, Jason lost his first wife Margaret Fitzpatrick Corbett following an asthma attack. The couple had been living in Limerick, Ireland and shared children Jack and Sarah.
During the recent trial, Margaret’s family disputed any suggestion that Jason could have been involved in her death – describing him as a ‘warm and caring person who loved Mags more than anything else in his life.’
Two years later, Jason hired then 24-year-old Molly Martens, who was a former beauty queen from Tennessee, to be the children’s nanny and the pair quickly fell in love.
Speaking to CBS News’ 48 Hours in 2019, Jason’s sister Jocelyn said the family ‘began to see glimpses of the old Jason coming back’ when he became involved with Molly. She added: ‘He wasn’t so sad all the time.’
According to the Irish Times, Molly was welcomed into the family by the children she once looked after – and was even lovingly referred to as their ‘mom’.
In an interview with ABC’s 20/20 in 2017, Molly – who was awaiting trial at the time -said: ‘It was wonderful for me. It gave me a sense of responsibility and it filled a void I had that made me feel like I was worth something.’
One month before their June 2011 wedding, the family moved into a four-bedroom home in the picturesque suburb of Winston-Salem in North Carolina.
Molly added: ‘Jason loved the United States and he thought the opportunities for the children were significantly better.’
However, the couple’s relationship soon began to deteriorate and Molly’s brother Connor told CBS that he noticed more ‘verbal altercations’ between his sister and Jason.
At the time, Molly says the pair were in conflict over whether Jason was going to let her legally adopt Sarah and Jack – making her their mother in the eyes of the law.
In the lead-up to his death, Jocelyn said her brother had started talking about moving back to Ireland and was clearly unhappy. Meanwhile, Molly claims her husband became increasingly ‘controlling’ and ‘paranoid’ she would cheat on him.
The year before Jason’s death, it is believed that his relationship with his father-in-law had worsened and Thomas reportedly encouraged Molly to divorce him.
Night of Jason’s death
On 2 August 2015, Jason was bludgeoned to death in his bedroom by Molly and her father Thomas – who claims he only intervened because his son-in-law was strangling his daughter.
Molly claims she was woken up in the middle of the night by Jason’s daughter Sarah – who had had a nightmare.
The children’s step-mother says Jack and Sarah would whisper at the bedroom door to get Molly’s attention as they knew they weren’t supposed to wake up Jason.
After getting Sarah back to sleep in her room, Molly claims she returned to bed and accidentally disturbed Jason – who was furious that she had ‘coddled’ the eight-year-old.
Downstairs, Molly’s father – who had made an impromptu overnight visit with wife Sharon – said he heard ‘thumping’ and instantly felt something ‘wasn’t right’.
Molly claims Jason wanted to make her be quiet so he covered her mouth and started choking her.
‘At some point, when he stopped, I screamed, and he started again, and the next thing I remember is my dad standing in the doorway,’ she told ABC.
Thomas claims he walked into the couple’s bedroom to find Jason with Molly in a chokehold. He says his son-in-law told him he was going to kill Molly as he dragged her towards their bathroom.
At this point, Thomas claims he hit Jason in the back of the head with a metal baseball bat – but then alleges the Irish father was strong enough to grab it off of him.
The pair claim a struggle ensued as Molly feared Jason would then hit Thomas with the bat.
She added: ‘I’m trying’ to hit him with the bat, and hit him with this end of the bat, and hit him with my elbow, and hit him with my fist, or anything else… but I’m going to hang onto that bat.
‘And he goes down, and I’ve got the bat… and I back off.’
‘He’s in bad shape’
In his 911 call, Thomas tells emergency services: ‘My son-in-law got in a fight with my daughter, I intervened and he’s in bad shape. We need help.’
When asked for specifics, Thomas added: ‘He’s bleeding all over and I may have killed him.’
Molly claims her husband was strangling her and yelling ‘I’m going to kill you’ when her father intervened.
During the 2017 ABC interview, Thomas said: ‘I’m going to do everything that I have to do to save her life. And if I die trying, well… she’s my daughter. I’m not going to live with not trying. I’ll tell you that.’
In February 2016, the father and daughter went on trial at Davidson Superior Court.
Greg Brown, the attorney representing the state of North Carolina in the case, said the crime was especially ‘heinous, atrocious and cruel’.
Both applied for bail, which was not opposed, and was granted on the condition that $200,000 was lodged with the court for each defendant, that they surrender their passports and agree to cease all contact with Mr Corbett’s immediate family, specifically his children Jack and Sarah.
Jason’s autopsy showed he died from blunt force trauma to his head. The description of the ‘means of death’ is a ‘ball bat and landscaping stone’.
During the trial, forensic experts argued that the physical evidence – including blood splatter patterns – proved that Jason sustained severe head injuries while on his bedroom floor.
The prosecution also disputed Thomas and Molly’s timeline as paramedics arrived on the scene to find Jason’s body cold to the touch.
Children’s recanted statements
Following their father’s death, Jack and Sarah were interviewed by officers who upheld Molly’s claims that Jason ‘physically and verbally hurt’ their step-mother.
Eight-year-old Sarah said at the time: ‘He would scream at my mom every day, or sometimes twice a day. He would fight with her. One time I saw him step on her foot. He called her bad names.’
In a separate interview, Jack said: ‘He would physically and verbally hurt my mom. She would cry and try to plug her ears. Sometimes she would just curl herself up in a ball. It made me very sad and angry.’
The children both also recalled being coached by Molly’s mother Sharon to call her and use the code-words ‘peacock’ and ‘galaxy’ if their father turned violent. However, Sarah said she never actually had to put the plan into action – and simply practised a lot.
However, following their return to Ireland, Jack and Sarah recanted their statements – a move which Molly and Thomas’ legal team have claimed was influenced by Jason’s family.
As a result, the judge deemed Sarah and Jack Corbett’s initial statements inadmissible and they were not presented to the jury in 2015.
Gruesome images sicken jury
After finding the father and daughter guilty, juror Miriam Figueroa said they did not believe the choking incident took place as Molly never had any reported injuries from the hospital at the time.
‘The evidence to me did not suggest that the story that was fabricated ever occurred,’ she said. ‘There was no doubt in my mind that I made and my fellow jurors made the right choice.’
‘Once you hit a certain point and you do not stop, manslaughter or self-defence goes off the table. Once that point was matched where you could have stopped then and there, once the person was no longer an aggressor, if that were the case, and you continue, it’s no longer self-defence.’
Figueroa claimed the duo allowed some time to pass before contacting 911, suggesting that, if they were victim in the event, the call would have been their top priority.
‘I think at some point dad came to help out and cover it up. There was blood on the pillow and on the comforter. That may have been the first blow, and then it progressed from that point where he got out of bed and she might have struck him more than one time in bed,’ Figueroa speculated.
Nancy Perez – who was another juror – said she struggled with Molly and Thomas’ self-defence argument due to the graphic photos from the crime scene.
The juror said she threw up in the courtroom after being shown a photo of Jason Corbett’s body.
After the guilty verdict was read in court, Molly Corbett said: ‘I’m really sorry to my mom, he should have just killed me’ according to ABC News.
Molly and Tom were three years into their 25-year sentence when an appeals court reviewed their case.
Molly’s secret recordings
In 2020, an appeal court supported Molly and Thomas’ appeal – citing that not all of the evidence, including Sarah and Jack’s initial statements and Molly’s secret recording, was presented to the jury.
Earlier this year, Molly Martens pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter while Thomas pleaded guilty to the same charge.
As such, their second-degree murder charges were dropped. Although voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, this is only if there are multiple aggravating factors.
During the retrial, jurors heard an audio clip Molly had recorded in February 2015 where Jason yelled at his wife for not preparing a meal that he wanted to eat with Jack and Sarah.
Instead, Molly had fed the children early and taken them to play in the snow before Jason returned home from work.
Jason is heard saying: ‘I’m talking to you! Is this how you treat… you just ignore me? I said I’d like to have dinner with my family. I’m talking to you. I shouldn’t have to say it over and over.’
The short clip ends with Sarah screaming at Molly and Jason to try and put an end to the argument.
In a pre-trial interview with ABC from 2017, Molly said she had consulted a solicitor who had told her to record any altercations which she could use as evidence in divorce proceedings.
District Attorney Alan Martin told the court this month: ‘You have now heard one singular, secretive recording when there were other recordings made and not submitted.’
During the sentencing hearing, Molly Martens’ attorney Douglas Kingsbery argued that Jack and Sarah’s 2021 recantations contained language similar to several interviews his aunt has given.
The defence also argued that it would have been challenging to ‘coach’ the children for their first interview within 24 hours of their father’s murder – with them later offering to recant their statements after months in their aunt’s care.
In his statement, Jack claimed that he never saw his father hit Molly but he did remember them having verbal arguments.
The teenager also claims his stepmother told him that he would never see her again if she did not tell social workers that her father assaulted her.
As a result of this claim, the court then delved into the death of Jack and Sarah’s mother Margaret Corbett.
Margaret Corbett’s mysterious death
Although Margaret was said to have died of asthma in 2007, Dr George Nichols – a Kentucky-based retired chief medical examiner – said he couldn’t rule out the possibility of it being a homicide.
Referencing her two-pace autopsy, the expert said: ‘This woman died in the family car on the way to the hospital. She was not resuscitatable. No cause of death was established at all.’
Dr Nichols was critical of the post-mortem and said there was a ‘whole bunch of stuff missing’ from the autopsy.
According to the expert, Margaret was not found to have had inflamed lungs – which is normally present in this kind of case.
When asked if Margaret’s death could have been a homicide, the expert said: ‘It is possible but nowhere close to probable.’
However, Dr Nicols did assert that Margaret definitely did not die of a asthma attack.
Following this update, Jason and Margaret’s friend Lynn Shanahan – who is also Sarah’s godmother – said : ‘If I knew what gas lighting was when Molly moved to Ireland I would have seen how she manipulated Jason to get what she wanted.
‘I’d have seen how she used Jason’s grief against him, and his desire to do everything for his children.’
Molly’s attorneys argued that Jason’s second wife had begun to fear that she may meet the same fate as Margaret.
Shortly after Jason’s death, Molly gave a statement to police alleging that her husband would force her to have sex by placing his hand over her mouth and nose until she passed out.
Thomas Martens’ attorney Jay Vannoy told the court that the retired FBI agent ‘accepts responsibility that his actions were excessive’.
He said: ‘We don’t deny that he hit multiple times. The question at sentencing is why?’
The defence argues that Thomas’ cognition was impaired as he was so distressed seeing his daughter allegedly being attacked.
‘Adoption was her desire’
In their closing statements, the prosecution claimed that Molly Martens ‘bashed Jason’s skull’ after learning that he wanted to take the children back to Ireland.
Prosecutor Alan Martin told the court that the stepmother was aware ‘the endgame was coming’ and jumped at the opportunity of having her father present in the house on the night of Jason’s death.
He claimed: ‘Adoption was her desire’.
Meanwhile, Dr Scott Hampton – the director of Ending the Violence – said that the extent of Jason’s injuries were a ‘measure of how terrified Molly and Tom were’.
This statement resulted in gasps among Jason’s family, which led to Judge Hall threatening to have disruptive members of the public thrown out of the courtroom.
Dr Hampton added: ‘If you don’t get to adopt the kids you can’t leave. That’s how he kept her trapped. Everyone can agree Molly is all about the kids, she applied for the job, and she was all about the kids.’
As such, Dr Hampton said killing Jason would not have helped Molly – as the children returned to live in Ireland with his family because she had no legal rights to them.
Corbett and her father were sentenced on Wednesday to a minimum of four years and a maximum of six years – and received credit for the three years and eight months they already served. The pair was also ordered to not contact Corbett’s family.