"There's nothing typical about this case. Nothing. I mean, this is an extraordinary case and an extraordinary set of circumstances." - Jay Vannoy, Attorney for Tom Martens.

Where to begin with the case of Molly, Tom and Jason? Where to end?. That one should be easy: the sentencing when Tom and Molly were handcuffed by Sheriff's Deputies and led away to finish their prison terms.

Or maybe the Corbett family, who were able at last to speak freely in a court and say their collective piece, then who got to watch as a prison sentence was imposed on the people who killed Jason.

But no, neither of these feels like the end.

Certainly not in the court of public opinion, where this issue will be informally re-litigated for weeks, months, years to come.

And when it becomes quiet, something will happen to trigger renewed interest: a book, a documentary, a high-profile TV show or a release from prison.

Mr Vannoy is right: this is an extraordinary case –there is nothing typical about it.

That's why it's been the subject of so much public fascination, so many theories and such partisan views.

Those views and opinions found their forum in social media, which enabled a trans-Atlantic debate that both influenced and was influenced by traditional media coverage.

All to such an extent that the retrial pre-trial hearings were subject to gag orders, as were the participants.

The case numbers were removed from the North Carolina online records system, and the new jury trial – if it happened – would have been moved to the city of Winston-Salem which is the home of Winston cigarettes and the Reynolds tobacco family.

The defence had argued there was so much prejudicial comment around the case there was no prospect of a fair jury being selected in Davidson County, the original jurisdiction of this case.

Molly (L) and Tom (R) accepted manslaughter charges (file image)

But on Monday 30 October, a special sitting of the county Superior Court convened in courtroom number six for a hearing that did not appear in the public court calendars.

Members of the public who were not in the know arrived for court as usual on a Monday morning, always a busy time in the criminal courts, only to be directed to court nine by the police, without explanation.

A few minutes after 10am and the explanation landed.

The rumours of a plea bargain were correct. Tom and Molly accepted manslaughter charges in return for the District Attorney dropping the original Murder 2 charge.

The formalities of that were over by mid-morning, faster than anyone was expecting, including the lawyers.

From 2pm on Monday 30 October to 1pm 8 November, every hour of the court was taken up with hearing information and arguments that would inform Judge David Hall’s sentence decision, which he delivered on Wednesday afternoon local time– just in time for primetime TV in Ireland.

If only the judge had allowed cameras in court or better still used the four remote control cameras permanently installed in the ceiling of the 2021 courtroom which could have beamed the proceedings out to a waiting world.

The drama they would have captured would have been extraordinary.

Let me rephrase, the drama was extraordinary for those of us in the court: if a television audience had seen it in their own homes, live and unedited, they would have been riveted by it.

Interest in the case would have soared, commentary would have exploded, the case would have broken through beyond North Carolina and Ireland which is exactly why camera access was denied.

But the case, strictly speaking, was over when the real drama began on Wednesday afternoon.

Molly said 'I deeply mourn what could have been a different path for all of us'

Closing statements by defence and prosecution lawyers had already been made, the judge had arrived at his decision and told us nothing that was going to be said would change his views.

But for the rest of us in Court six, the next two hours were the most compelling part of the whole hearing.

The drama began when Molly Martens Corbett addressed the court for the first time.

In a faint, hesitant voice she gave a short, tear-stained allocution in which she said: "There is not a day, or an hour goes by that I do not feel the weight of my actions. I deeply mourn what could have been a different path for all of us."

She said that she had protected her father from what she thought was certain death.

Tom said 'I take responsibility for what I have done'

Then came Tom Martens, the former FBI agent who true to his type A personality psychological profile was calm, almost matter of fact, precise and short.

He had killed Jason Corbett, he said: "I take responsibility for what I have done. I am sorry".

But the electricity in the air was palpable when Jason and Margaret Corbett’s children stood up at the microphone at the prosecutor’s desk in the well of the court and began to speak.

"The first thing I want to state clearly is, I was a liar. From the age of 4 – 10 years of age, I was taught how to lie and manipulate people by Molly Martens. During this time, I was abused by Molly Martens in every way you can imagine and then some," said Jack.

On hearing these words Molly Martens Corbett, the woman who wanted to be his mother, gasped and started to cry.

Jack was only getting going.

"Everyone talks about trauma and that it takes time to heal. I will never heal. Trauma leaves scars that I will carry until the day I die," he said.

"Your honour, don’t be fooled by this mask of civility of Molly Martens. There is a monster lurking underneath the exterior. She systematically broke me down and drip fed me untruths. I want to be clear: I had never witnessed my Dad hit Molly Martens – ever.

"I am not under duress now; I want you to look at me standing here today and know the truth.

"The fact that my father’s phone, laptops, computers and hard drives were in Bobby Martens’ house in evidence baggies and not found or admitted to evidence just shows that the entire Marten’s family is complicit in the cover up of the killing of my father. It is a travesty of justice that Molly Martens wasn’t charged with first degree murder as was considered by the DA.

"Molly Martens needs to be locked away for as long as possible so she cannot do this to another family, Another child. It is my biggest fear and gives me nightmares. She will do it again if she finds the opportunity," he said.

Jason Corbett's family, including his two children, outside the US court

The past. The future. The pain that never ends. The potential for repeat offending. His statement finished on Wednesday afternoon, same as the court case. But is it really over?

The same question can be asked of his sister, Sarah.

Her victim impact statement was even more devastating for Molly Martens Corbett.

"Sitting inside of this courtroom has been a traumatic experience. Listening to adult’s twist and manipulate the words I said out of fear as an 8-year-old child has been extremely difficult. Your honour, I would like to give you an example of how our truth is being twisted," Sarah said.

"When Ms Shannon Grubb testified about the park incident where I had no shoes going to school. There was no fight with my Dad. My Dad had already gone to work well before we got up for school. Molly had beaten Jack again and that is why I was hysterical.

"Molly had left Jack at home instead of bringing Jack to school too, she left in such anger she forgot my shoes. I didn’t want Molly to go home on her own as I was afraid of what she would do to Jack if I wasn’t there to stand up for him. This is an example of how the true situations of my life have been manipulated.

"You can take any story the defence have created and I can tell you the true horror of what actually happened.

"I was used by her. All I have ever been was a piece on her chess board. She used words I said out of fear against my Dad and my family to get out of jail, and now they are using them to get a reduced sentence. Can you try and understand the effects that can have on a girl growing up from the age of eight to 17?

"While my friends are out having fun and going to parties, I am in therapy learning how to live with the fact that I lied and helped their case. I was 8 years old.

"Not once did I say I didn’t love Molly Martens but after her weaponising my love for her and being able to express the abuse I endured because of her, I can stand here today and say I do not love Molly and she is not my mother," she said.

The judge said custodial sentences were warranted

At this Molly Martens Corbett crumpled, lowered her head into her arms folded on the table her lawyers had conducted her defence from and sobbed loudly.

There was a large box of tissue paper in front of her. All of her female relatives were in tears by now, the sisters in law, the wives of her three brothers and her mother Sharon.

Several of the women friends and neighbours who had testified for her at the end of the first weeks evidence were also all weeping. The unmasking of pain almost unbearable.

The aggressive stance of a young man in pain, the anguished cries of a teenage girl, the bitter tears of a convicted killer whose plans for a child rearing future were ripped away from her by her own hand and the baseball bat wielding hands of her own father.

And then came the sentencing, lots of mitigating factors for both of the killers, from no prior convictions to Tom’s security background, which the judge considered equivalent to military service, thus making him eligible for more mitigation to be taken into account.

But still, he had bludgeoned a man to death and surprisingly, the judge noted, for a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, he entered a situation so dangerous that he armed himself, but never called for backup, like all cops are supposed to.

Nor did his wife Sharon, a woman who suspected her son in law of domestic abuse and possibly violence, but the night her husband dashed upstairs with a baseball bat, having been awoken by screaming and noise form the master bedroom, Sharon Martens did not call the cops either.

She went back to sleep and nobody called her to testify in either court case.

She is 73 years old, has cancer and her husband is in prison.

The judge said custodial sentences were warranted with a minimum of 4 and a quarter years and a maximum of seven.

Time already served to be counted. Tom’s lawyers say he will be out in seven months.

Molly was the first to be handcuffed and led away by a Sheriff's deputy. She kept looking back at Tom, but he had not been sentenced yet.

When his turn came to be cuffed, he slipped off his jacket and passed it over the bar of the court to his son, saying look after this for me.

But on it went.

The journalists searched for people to talk to, but few were willing.

The Corbett's walked stony faced to their SUV, Tracy Lynch saying "this is not a day for celebration".

The Martens family turned left out the door of the court, away from the waiting media and moved swiftly away.

There was no sign of the Assistant District Attorneys who had prosecuted the case. Doug Kingsberry, Molly’s lawyer left an hour and a half later and said nothing.

But Jones Byrd, the bow tie wearing attorney, who had been the Martens go to lawyer since 3 August 2015, did stop to comment, as did his co-counsel Jay Vannoy.

They were asked what Molly thought about the statements by Jack and Sarah.

Jay Vannoy said: "Well, I think, you know, that was very difficult for her. I think if you sat and you heard all the evidence and all the videotapes, I think Molly did the best job she could do with raising those kids, as a surrogate mother. And I think it was very hurtful for her to have to listen to that.

"I think what sticks with me is what the judge said. The judge is very experienced. The judge believed that their statements in their videotape interviews and other statements to the department of social services, right after this happened were truthful and believable.

"And it was just very difficult for her to have to listen to them saying that she somehow hurt them. Which I just don't believe is true."

Even after the case was over, even as they walked away from court, they were still defending their client, still arguing the case.

As will many other people for a long time to come and on it will go.

Jason's sister, Tracey, said she was in France when he died

Tracey Lynch, Jason's sister and the driving force behind the campaign Justice for Jason, had also made an in-person victim impact statement.

She and her husband Dave had gained custody of Jason’s children and brought them back to Ireland, raising them as their own.

Dealing with their nightmares and paying the costs of transatlantic court dates alongside paying other emotional costs as well.

Tracey told the court at the time Jason died she was in France with her husband and a 12-year-old girl whom they had just begun to act as foster parents for, but within weeks she had two other traumatised children in her house and by November of that year she agreed with Tusla that it would be for the best if their new foster daughter went back to the childcare service, as she could not give her the time and emotional support she needed and deserved.

Tracey said she misses the girl, misses not having mothered her in the way she wanted to.

Hers was another life knocked sideways by the manslaughter of Jason Corbett.

As were the Fitzgerald family in Co Limerick who lost a daughter, Margaret, Jason's first wife.

They had to watch from afar as Molly’s defence lawyer, Doug Kingsberry, raised the notion that she was a victim of homicide and not asthma with suspect number one, in his view, being Jason Corbett.

Doctors differed on the stand, the Co Limerick autopsy report was up for a post-mortem exam of its own.

The judge didn’t buy it and he prosecutors from the DA’s office laid into Molly’s history of fantasy, dissembling and delusion.

The Judge ordered the prison system to subject her to a full psychiatric exam, supply her with whatever psychological support and medicines she needed, and placed her on suicide watch.

But the blackening of Jason Corbett’s name was a part of the defence strategy and the consequences of that in the court of public opinion have yet to play out fully.

The case is over, but it is not the end.

Read more:
Molly Martens Corbett and Tom Martens jailed for Jason Corbett manslaughter

'Life filled with anniversaries of death' - Corbett children's victim impact statements
Martens sentencing ends eight years of legal process
Inside Molly Martens Corbett's plea deal