Weeping father tells jury he hit Jason Corbett because he feared for his and daughter's life

Thomas Martens, the father of Molly Martens, has told a jury he hit Jason Corbett until he was down because he was afraid Jason would kill him and his daughter, Molly Corbett.

Ms Martens, 33, and her father, Thomas Martens, 67, a former FBI agent, are on trial for second-degree murder in the death of Irish businessman Jason Corbett.

Thomas and Molly Martens.

"I hit him until he goes down, and then I step away," Martens said. "I don’t know how many times I hit him. I hit him until I thought he could not kill me...I felt both of our lives were in danger. I did the best I could."

Prosecutors, who completed their evidence on Thursday, have alleged Molly Corbett and Martens brutally beat Jason Corbett, 39, to death with a 28-inch Louisville Slugger baseball bat and a concrete paving stone. A medical examiner said Jason Corbett was hit in different parts of his head at least 12 times. But Molly Corbett and Martens have claimed self-defense and the defense of others.

Martens was the first witness that defense attorneys called to the stand today. He and his wife, Sharon, live in Knoxville, Tenn, and had had plans that night to have dinner with a few friends. Those plans later got cancelled, and Martens said he and his wife decided to drive down to visit Molly Corbett, who was married to Jason Corbett, and was stepmother to Jason’s two children, Jack and Sarah, in Davidson County.

The Martens got to Davidson County about 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2015 and had pizza with Molly, Jason and Sarah. Jack had gone to a friend’s party nearby and came home about 11.

Martens testified that he had gone to bed with plans to play golf with Jason the next day." Then the unthinkable happened.

"I head thumping, loud thumping, loud footfalls," he said. "I heard a scream and loud voices. There was an obvious disturbance going on above me."

Jason Corbett

Martens said he got out of bed and grabbed the baseball bat he had planned to give to Jack the next day and went upstairs. By the time he got upstairs, he said the sounds were coming from the master bedroom where Jason and Molly were.

The door was closed. He opened it.

"In front of me, I would say seven or eight feet...in front of me, Jason had his hands around Molly’s neck facing each other. She was a little to the right. He was a little to the left," he said.

At some point, Martens said, Jason turned Molly around and placed her into the crook of his right arm.

"I said, ’Let her go.’ He said, ’I’m going to kill her.’ I said, ’Let her go.’ He said, ’I’m going to kill her,’" Martens said, starting to choke up. "He was really angry. I was really scared."

Jason Corbett takes a step toward the hallway that goes to the bathroom.

"I was afraid he was going to get to the bathroom and that would be the end of that," he said, again choking up.

Martens said he took a step to the right and hit him in the back of the head with the baseball bat.

"It seemed like the most effective place to hit him," he said. "I didn’t want to hit Molly."

That’s because, Martens said, Jason was taller than Molly and he had her in a tight choke hold.

The hit only made Jason angrier, Martens said. Molly was no longer wiggling in Jason’s grip, according to Martens.

Jason started to move toward the bathroom and Martens said he followed. He said he had little room to maneuver.

Then they move back toward the bedroom.

"I get what I think is a chance to hit him," Martens said. "Only this time, he puts up his left hand and catches the bat, perfectly right in his palm."

Molly escapes at that moment, Martens said. Jason then pushes Martens with his left hand across the bedroom, he said.

Martens said he thinks his glasses have fallen off and looks for them and then realizes he has to do something. Molly is by the nightstand. Jason is looking at Martens and Molly, Martens said.

"I decide to rush him and try to get hold of the bat," he said. The two men struggle over the bat, and then Martens gets control. Then Martens said he hits Jason with the bat, again and again until Jason is down.

Afterward, Martens calls 911 and says that he and Molly perform CPR until paramedics arrive.

Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown zeroed in on Martens’ FBI training and asked him a series of questions about his training in self-defense.

Martens acknowledged that it is possible for a smaller man, such as Martens, to win in a fight against a larger man with a weapon.

Brown also asked him about comments that Martens is alleged to have made to a co-worker of his at Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee, where he worked counterintelligence. Joann Lowry testified that two months before Jason died, Martens said he hated Jason. Martens said he would never say he hated someone, but it is true that he disliked Jason Corbett.

Brown also argued outside the presence of the jury that a possible motive for killing Jason is that Jason Corbett had a $600,000 life insurance policy and that Molly Corbett was the beneficiary.

Walter Holton, attorney for Molly Corbett, objected to the jury hearing that evidence because Molly Corbett never made a claim on the insurance policy after Jason’s death. He also said the complete facts about the insurance policy was not disclosed to the defense until two days into the trial.

Cross-examination of Thomas Martens continues.


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