SCHENECTADY, NY — On December 20, 1985, 43-year-old Marybeth Tinning placed a pillow over the face of her four-month-old daughter Tami Lynne and smothered the life out of the baby.
Beginning in 1971, Tinning had given birth to eight previous children. Each one had died as infants or toddlers. Now Tami Lynne made it nine. It was only then, after 14 years and all those dead babies, that authorities suspected foul play might be possible.
Marybeth Tinning grew up in Schenectady, New York, where she also lived as a married housewife with her husband Joe Tinning. She gave birth to the couple’s first child, Barbara, in 1967. Joseph Jr. followed in 1969.
Baby Jennifer Tinning arrived in December 1971. Tragically, eight days later, Jennifer died, reportedly the victim of spinal meningitis.
Seventeen days after Jennifer died, two-year-old Joe Jr. suddenly expired, as well. Doctors believed he succumbed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Six weeks later, Tinning rushed four-year-old Barbara to an emergency room, claiming the child was suffering convulsions. After bringing Barbara back home, the child died. This time, physicians chalked it up to Reyes Syndrome.
Within three months of one another, all three Tinning children were in the grave. Horrifically, more siblings would join them.
Marybeth next birthed Timothy on Thanksgiving Day, 1973. On December 10, Timothy was no more, another apparent victim of SIDS.
On Easter Sunday, 1975, Nathan Tinning was born. On September 2, Marybeth reported that Nathan spontaneously stopped breathing while he was in the car with her. He never drew another breath again.
Incredibly, in August 1978, Marybeth and Joe successfully adopted an infant named Michael. At the same time, Marybeth had become pregnant again and had a girl named Mary Frances on October 29. Four months later, Mary Frances became yet another supposed SIDS casualty.In November 1979, Marybeth gave birth to Jonathan, her seventh child. SIDS supposedly struck yet again, taking Jonathan in March 1980.
Michael, the Tinning’s adopted son, rather remarkably, remained alive at this point. Alas, on March 2, 1981, Marybeth brought the unconscious two-and-a-half-year-old Michael to the pediatrician. She said he had just stopped breathing. By the time the doctor unwrapped his blanket, Michael was already dead.
As Michael had been adopted, the general notion that the Tinning children suffered from some sort of inborn genetic defect flew out the window.
Suspicions had long been stirring over the fact that seven of eight healthy children all died while in the sole presence of their mother, Marybeth Tinning. Only after Tami Lynne Tinning died in 1985, though, did the police finally take it seriously enough to move in and arrest her.Under intense questioning, Marybeth Tinning reportedly confessed to murdering Timothy, Nathan, and Tami Lynne, saying:
“I smothered them each with a pillow, because I’m not a good mother.”
The three little bodies were exhumed, but had decomposed past the point of providing much information.
Marybeth later recanted her confession, claiming she’d been coerced. Regardless, authorities charged her with the murder of Tami Lynne.
Investigators dismissed Joe Tinning as a suspect. Shockingly, he stood by his wife, even after police revealed she’d tried to kill him in 1974 by poisoning his grape juice with barbiturates.
Following a six-week trial, a jury found Marybeth Tinning guilty of murder. The judge gave her 20 years to life behind bars. Tinning maintained she was innocent for years after being convicted.
Since 2007, Tinning has come up for parole three times. In 2011, Tinning admitted to the parole board that she killed Tami Lynne, stating:
“After the deaths of my other children … I just lost it. I became a damaged, worthless piece of person, and when my daughter was young, in my state of mind at that time, I just believed that she was going to die also. So I just did it.”
On that occasion, and again in both 2013 and 2015, the board denied Tinning a chance to walk free again among living children.
Now 74 years old, Tinning is due for another hearing in 2017. Odds are Marybeth won’t be leaving the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women this time, either.
For more Murderous Moms, watch full episodes of Investigation Discovery’s Evil Stepmothers, Deadly Women, and more on ID GO.
Main photo: Marybeth Tinning [New York State Department of Correctional Services]