Ex-ORNL counterintelligence officer charged in death

Thomas Martens, a former counterintelligence officer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a retired FBI agent, has been indicted on second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter charges in the violent death of his son-in-law last August in North Carolina.

His daughter, Molly Martens Corbett, was indicted on the same charges for the death of her Irish-born husband, 39-year-old Jason Corbett, on Aug. 2 at their home in Wallburg, N.C.

Greg Brown, an assistant district attorney who will prosecute the case, said the indictment was returned by the Davidson County (N.C.) Grand Jury and unsealed on Monday by Superior Court Judge Theodore Royster.

Martens, who lives in Knoxville, and his daughter both appeared Tuesday before Royster for their first court appearance in which they were advised of the charges.

The judge agreed to the state’s request for a secured bond of $200,000 for each of the defendants, Brown said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Brown said the judge also stipulated that Martens and Molly Martens Corbett could not have any contact with members of the victim’s family, including his two children — Sarah and Jack — who returned to Ireland to live with relatives after the death of their father.

The police incident report said Martens reportedly acknowledged his involvement while making a 911 call to report the 3 a.m. incident.

“At this time, the Davidson Co. 911 Center advised that the complainant in the call had stated that he had been in an argument with his son-in-law and that he had struck him with a baseball bat,” the incident report stated.

The case has drawn considerable attention by foreign news media, especially in Corbett’s native Ireland. “The District Attorney’s Office has received numerous calls from Ireland,” Brown said.

Martens joined the Department of Energy’s Counterintelligence Office at ORNL about eight years ago, but he was placed on administrative leave with pay following the death of Corbett and Martens’ involvement at the scene.

ORNL spokesman David Keim said Tuesday that Martens’ employment at the lab ended “late last year,” but he declined to elaborate.

“That’s a personnel matter,” Keim said. “We don’t talk about that stuff.”

Reached by telephone Tuesday, Martens said he retired from ORNL on Dec. 1.

According to news reports, Corbett’s first wife — and mother of his children — died in 2006. Molly Martens later joined the Corbett family as an au pair. Corbett and Molly Martens were reportedly married in 2006.

Brown said the next hearing in the case will be scheduled for the week of Feb. 8. At that time, the defendants will have a chance to enter pleas or introduce motions.

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.