The two young children of slain Irishman Jason Corbett have been taken from the custody of their stepmother Molly Martens, a “person of interest” in Corbett's death, and returned to their paternal aunt Tracey Lynch and her husband, David.
Jack, 10, and Sara, 8, were placed in the custody of Corbett’s second wife Martens following his death on August 2 and she was seeking full custody of her stepchildren, despite being questioned by police about his death.
The Irishman, 39, was found unconscious and unresponsive inside his house in in Panther Creek Court in Wallburg, NC earlier this month following an emergency call to local police in the early hours of the morning.
Investigators believe that Corbett sustained his fatal injuries during a domestic disturbance, having being struck over the head with a baseball bat found at the scene. Although no arrests have yet been made, investigators confirmed that they are not looking for anybody outside of the home.
Corbett’s wife Molly and her former FBI agent father, Thomas Martens, 65, are regarded as “persons of interest” in the investigation and have been questioned by police, although they have not been officially named as suspects.
Jason’s sister Tracey had previously been named as the children’s legal guardian in his will following the tragic death of his first wife, Mags Corbett, from an asthma attack in 2006.
Martens contested this and entered a custody battle with Corbett’s family that they describe as “a circus.” Lynch and her brother Michael Corbett traveled to North Carolina to bring the children home to Ireland shortly after Jason’ death but were refused all access to their niece and nephew.
Jason’s oldest brother, John, has said that the family will never forgive Martens for the pain she has put them through in denying the family access to the young children, describing the situation as “an inhumane level of pain.”
“[She] could have avoided all of this by just humanely handing these children back to their rightful family.
“She and her family even obstructed us from getting my brother back to Ireland for two days,” he told RTÉ Radio 1’s "Today With Sean O Rourke" show.
“It is inhuman how they’ve acted over the last two weeks … they stopped my brother from getting access to Jason’s body for two days.”
The children are not yet allowed to leave the US for Ireland, but Corbett’s family hope that this latest ruling is the beginning of the end of their custody battle, allowing them to properly grieve for their brother.
Jason’s brother Michael accompanied his remains back to Ireland last week, but his family have refused to bury him without his children present.
A hearing about guardianship was held last Friday with a final decision postponed until a later date. Monday evening, however, Brian Shipwash, Clerk of Davidson County Superior Court who is presiding over the case, ordered that the children be removed from Martens’ custody.
He determined that it was "in the best interest of the minor child that to appoint applicants Tracey and David Lynch, paternal aunt and uncle, as guardians of the minor child."
The Lynches now await the official decision of the hearing’s judge, Jude April Wood. Proceedings are scheduled to take place today with both parties in attendance.
“These poor children must be so traumatized by all of this – especially Jack because he remembers his poor mom dying seven years ago,” John said.
“They will need so much nurturing and care over the next few years… [but] with the love and care they will receive from their true family, they will recover and heal.”
"I’m sure for the judge to make this decision, he must have seen my sister and her husband were the rightful place for the children to be," he added.
Jason, who was from the Janesboro area of Limerick city, moved to the US four years ago with his two children, Jack (8) and Sarah (10) following the death of his first wife.
Jason met his second wife Molly when she became the children's nanny.
His sister Tracey had previously revealed that James wished for the children to return and be brought up in Ireland.
On Tuesday evening, over 600 people attended a candlelight vigil in Limerick for Jason and his young son and daughter where his twin, Wayne, paid tribute to all those who had helped them throughout the custody battle and in their quest to bring the children home.
“We are just trying to cope for our elderly parents [Rita, 74, and John, 80] and then we can bury my brother as he should be buried,” Wayne said.
“We are nervous and frustrated at the whole thing, it’s hard enough for the Corbett family to actually deal with what’s happened, but they haven’t been able to grieve,” added Thomas Fitzpatrick, brother of Jason's first wife Mags.
“We haven’t been able to grieve either. We just want to get the kids back and begin the process.”
Contributions to Jason’s Journey fund can be made to the Permanent TSB branch in Dooradoyle, Limerick. The account number in the name of Mary Fitzpatrick is 11240513, sort code 990715.
A book of condolences has also been opened by Limerick City and County Council and is available here.
H/T: Irish Independent