‘I hit him until he couldn’t kill me,’ Thomas Martens tells murder trial

Father-in-law of Jason Corbett say he saw Limerickman with ‘hands around Molly’s neck’

Police in Davidson County, North Carolina have released the audio of a 911 call made by Jason Corbett's father-in-law on the night of his death.


The father-in-law of Jason Corbett has taken the stand in his murder trial in the US and described how he hit the Limerickman with a baseball bat. “I hit him until he couldn’t kill me,” he told the court .

Mr Corbett’s widow, Molly Martens Corbett, and her father Thomas Martens are charged with the second-degree murder of Mr Corbett, who was found beaten to death at his home in Wallburg, North Carolina, in the early hours of August 2nd, 2015. Ms Corbett (33) and Mr Martens (67) have pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defence after Mr Corbett allegedly tried to strangle his wife.

Mr Martens told the court on Friday he woke up to a noise in the middle of the night coming from his daughter and her husband’s bedroom.

“It sounded bad, like a matter of urgency, so I got out of bed and grabbed the baseball bat... I did not call 911. I reacted instinctively and did not think to call 911.”

He said he saw Mr Corbett with his “hands around Molly’s neck”. He continued: “As I’m entering the door, they’re to the right. I closed the door. I don’t know why, but I know that I did. I said, ‘Let her go’, and he said ‘I’m going to kill her’. I don’t know how many times that happened, but several times.”

Mr Martens said at some point Mr Corbett reversed himself and had Ms Martens in the crook of his arm.

Mr Martens said he was “really scared” and Mr Corbett was “really angry”.

Mr Martens said he hit Mr Corbett but “it didn’t have any effect”. “Mr Corbett didn’t waver,” he said.

Mr Corbett continued to edge down the hallway, Mr Martens said. Without as much room to manoeuvre as he had in the bedroom, Mr Martens said he hit him as many times as he could to distract him.

“I was determined that he was not going to close that bedroom door between me and him,” Mr Martens said.

Again, it didn’t seem to have any effect, according to Mr Martens. He expressed fear that he would lose his life, and that his daughter might lose hers.

“We came back down the hallway, and we’re back in the bedroom,” Mr Martens said. “I get a chance to hit him, only this time, he’s ready for me. He catches the bat in the palm of his hand perfectly.

“Molly (escaped)… but now he has the bat and I’m still holding the bat. He reaches out with his left hand and shoves me across the room, and I’m face down in the carpet.”

‘Lost glasses’

Mr Martens testified he “foolishly” searched for his glasses once he realised he lost them in the struggle. He indicated that in hindsight, he realised he was better off without them in a fight, as they could not be crushed into his face.

Nonetheless, he said he searched aimlessly for a few moments.

“I’m thinking the next thing I’m going to get is a bat to the back of the head, and I’m scrambling,” Mr Martens said. “It was a shock to get thrown across the bedroom... He’s got the bat. Molly is by the nightstand.

“Things look pretty bleak. He’s got the bat and is in a good, athletic position. I decide to rush him… As desperate as it seemed, it seemed the only thing to do.

“I get both hands on the bat, and now we’re struggling over the bat. This is not good for me,” he said.

That image is kind of frozen in my mind... him with his hands around her neck

Despite the compromising position, Mr Martens said he managed to get control of the bat and hit him. “This isn’t over. I hit him until he goes down, then I step away,” Mr Martens said. “I hit him until he couldn’t kill me.”

Mr Martens was asked by Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown about training he received while a member of the FBI. Mr Martens served in criminal investigation and counterintelligence for over 31-years with the bureau.

“It’s basically spy versus spy,” Mr Martens said of counterintelligence.

Self-defence training

Also employed with top-secret security clearance at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Mr Martens was trained in self-defence.

When asked if he was trained in how to defend himself without the use of deadly force, Mr Martens paused before giving a more complex answer. Saying he was trained in deadly force, he said he was not sure he had the type of training Mr Brown described. In response to a question of whether he would have protected his daughter from her husband before August 2nd, 2015, Mr Martens said, “I’m not sure how to answer that.”

Explaining that it was not a simple yes or no answer, he said he would need to know the specific circumstances surrounding any hypothetical occasion. If informed Mr Corbett was abusing his daughter, Mr Martens said he would encourage her to take measures to protect herself, including possibly dissolving her marriage. If she was being physically abused in front of him, Mr Martens said he would intervene.

Mr Martens said he had no definitive information of any violent encounters in which Mr Corbett inflicted injury to his daughter in Ireland. He added he did not witness any physical violence between Mr Corbett and his daughter prior to August 2nd, 2015.

The prosecuting attorney asked if he grew to hate Mr Corbett. He denied it and said the word implies demonisation of someone, in part, due to matters concerning race.

When asked, Mr Martens said he was aware of some contention between Mr Corbett and Ms Martens regarding Mr Corbett’s decision not to allow Ms Martens to adopt his children. Mr Martens testified his understanding at the time of their marriage was that Mr Corbett indicated he was going to permit his wife to adopt the children.

Additional questions were addressed to Mr Martens pertaining to the positions of Mr Corbett, Mr Martens and his daughter.

“That image is kind of frozen in my mind,” Mr Martens said. “Him with his hands around her neck.”

When asked if he made the decision to kill Mr Corbett, Mr Martens replied ‘no’. He said he made the decision to hit him in the back of the head with a baseball bat to subdue the threat to his daughter.

“Are you trying to take the blame for your daughter?” Mr Brown asked.

“No. I’m trying to take responsibility for what I did, and I’m trying to tell you truthfully what I did,” Mr Martens replied.

In succession, the prosecutor asked if Mr Martens lost control and how long it took to call 911.

“It took a couple of minutes to gather myself, take a deep breath,” Mr Martens said.

He estimated it took two minutes to collect himself, before then asking his daughter to find a phone and call 911. Mr Martens said he does not remember if either he or his daughter washed their hands before using the phone to call for emergency help. Prior to the 911 call, neither Mr Martens or his daughter started CPR on Jason Corbett, he testified.

When asked whether he moved the vacuum cleaner, he said he didn’t think so, but allowed it was conceivable that in the hectic time of trying to administer CPR while on the phone with the 911 operator, he could have moved it. He also said he did not remember washing his hands at any point prior to being interviewed at the sheriff’s office.

Finally, when asked directly by Mr Brown if he and his daughter murdered Jason Corbett, he said that is not the truth.

The case continues.