The brother of Jason Corbett, the Irishman murdered in North Carolina, has expressed utter disbelief that Jason’s children, Jack (10) and Sarah (8), remain in the custody of their step-mother, who is a suspect in the case.

The custody debate was supposed to be decided at a guardianship hearing in North Carolina on Friday, but the judge announced that he would not be making a decision in the case until next week.

"How can it be my nephew and niece’s benefit… to [try to] heal in the company of the person who is a suspect?” Jason’s brother John asked RTE following the hearing.

"My nephew and niece are with the suspect in my brother’s murder… it’s beyond all comprehension," he added.

In his will, Jason specified that in the event of his death, Jack and Sarah should go into the custody of his sister, Tracey Lynch, and her husband, David. The couple has been in the US for this past week, but report that they have not yet been allowed to see or speak with their niece and nephew.

Their biological mother, Mags Corbett, died suddenly in 2006 following an asthma attack; Jason and the children moved to the US in

John told the Irish Independent that Molly Martens, their stepmother, had tried to adopt the children on a number of occasions, but that Jason had always protested.

"He must have had some concerns not to allow it," John Corbett said. “I feel she wants custody so it will benefit her in the criminal investigation… and also for the very substantial estate of Jason," he said.

Molly’s father, Thomas, has also been questioned in connection with Corbett’s death.

Thomas (65) and Molly (31) Martens were both present in the family home at the time of death. Corbett (39), a native of Limerick, was found on the ground with fatal head injuries reportedly caused by a baseball bat attack. The police were called to the house in the early hours of Sunday, August 3. Davidson County Sheriff David Grice said detectives took two people "of their own free will" to the Sheriff's office.

The family is calling upon the Irish government and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan to intervene in the case.