Marybeth Roe Tinning (born September 11, 1942) is an American serial killer. In 1987, Tinning was arrested and convicted for the murder of her ninth child, 4-month-old daughter Tami Lynne on December 20, 1985. Laboratory testing indicated the death of Tinning's ninth child resulted from asphyxia by suffocation. Marybeth is suspected to be similarly involved in the previous deaths of her eight children.
Nine Tinning children died under Marybeth's care over fourteen years. Cause of deaths for the first eight children was initially thought to be genetic. Even when their 1978 adopted sixth child, Michael, who was not of blood relation, died in 1981, authorities failed to open an investigation into his death. After investigating the other children's deaths, the Schenectady County prosecutors only had enough evidence to charge Tinning in one child's death. In July 1987, she was convicted of second-degree murder. and sentenced to 20 years to life. An appeal of her case to the New York Supreme Court argued Tinning's confession to the crime was coerced and there was insufficient evidence to convict her, but this appeal was denied.
Tinning's diagnosis of Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) has come into question. It is unclear if she has ever been diagnosed with MSBP. Analyzing her recurring events, some believe Tinning's pattern of behavior aligns perfectly with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition's (DSM-5) Development and Course section on the disorder: "In individuals with recurrent episodes of falsification of signs and symptoms of illness and/or induction of injury, this pattern of successive deceptive contact with medical personnel, including hospitalizations, may become lifelong."
Tinning was incarcerated at Taconic Correctional Facility for Women in Bedford Hills, New York. She was denied parole six times, but was granted parole at her seventh hearing in July 2018 and was released on August 21, 2018.
Marybeth Roe was born on September 11, 1942, in the small town of Duanesburg, New York, to Ruth and Alton Lewis Roe. There is little information available regarding her formative years. During a portion of this time, her father was deployed overseas fighting in World War II while her mother was working. Due to both of her parents being away at times, Marybeth was occasionally shuffled between nearby relatives for care. This is when one of her elderly relatives brazenly told her she was an accidental child and her birth was unwanted. When her little brother reached adolescence, Marybeth would tell him, "You were the one they wanted, not me."
Her father, Alton Lewis Roe, on completion of his active duty, worked as a press operator in a nearby General Electric facility. At the time, the facility was the area's largest employer. As an adult, Marybeth once claimed that when she was a child, her father abused her. During a police interview in 1986, she told one investigator that her father had beaten her and locked her in a closet. During court testimony, she denied that her father had bad intentions. "My father hit me with a flyswatter," she told the court, "because he had arthritis and his hands were not of much use. And when he locked me in my room I guess he thought I deserved it.
Marybeth was an average student at Duanesburg High School and graduated in 1961. Following high school, she worked at various low-paying and unskilled jobs. She eventually settled on a job as a nursing assistant at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, New York, ten miles north of Duanesburg.
Marriage and poisoning
In 1963, she met Joseph Tinning on a blind date with some friends. Joseph had a very quiet personality and was very happy-go-lucky. The couple got married in 1965. The Tinnings' first child, Barbara, was born in May 1967. In January 1970, Joseph, the Tinnings' second child, was born.
In 1974, the elder Joseph Tinning was admitted to the hospital due to a near-fatal dosage of barbiturate poisoning. Later he and Marybeth acknowledged that when this incident occurred their marriage was under heavy turmoil. This led to her placing pills, which she took from a friend with an epileptic daughter, into Joseph's grape juice. Joseph declined to press charges against his wife.
In October 1971, Tinning's father died of a sudden heart attack.
In December 1971, Jennifer, the Tinnings' third child, was born. Jennifer died, only 8 days old, from hemorrhagic meningitis and multiple brain abscesses from birth. Seventeen days after Jennifer's death, on January 20, 1972, Tinning took her two-year-old son, Joseph Jr., to the Ellis Hospital emergency room in Schenectady. His death was attributed to cardiopulmonary arrest. Several weeks later, Marybeth rushed Barbara to the hospital because she had gone into convulsions. The next day, Barbara died, after being in a comatose state for several hours. Barbara's death was attributed to Reye syndrome. Marybeth Tinning was 29 years old at this time. On Thanksgiving Day 1973, Tinning gave birth to a son, Timothy. On December 10, Timothy was brought back to the same hospital. He was dead. Tinning told doctors she found him lifeless in his crib. Doctors attributed his death to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In March 1975, Tinning's fifth child, Nathan, was born. That autumn he died in the car while out with Tinning.
In August 1978, the Tinnings adopted Michael shortly after he was born. On October 29, she gave birth to her sixth child, Mary Frances. In January 1979, Tinning rushed Mary Frances to the emergency room, directly across the street from her apartment, saying the baby had had a seizure. The staff was able to revive her, reporting "aborted SIDS." A month later, Tinning returned to the hospital with Mary Frances in full cardiac arrest; she was revived, but had irreversible brain damage. Two days later, Mary Frances died after being taken off life support. In the fall, Jonathan, the Tinnings' eighth child, was born. In March 1980, Jonathan died after being kept on life support in Albany, New York, for four weeks. In March 1981, Tinning took Michael to the doctor's office because he would not wake up. Michael died. In February, he had been taken to the hospital for falling down stairs. Since Michael was adopted, the long-suspected theory that the deaths in the Tinning family had a genetic origin was discarded.
In August 1985, Tami Lynne was born. On December 20, she died from being smothered. That day, the Tinning family was visited by Betsy Mannix of Schenectady County's Department of Social Services and Bob Imfeld of the Schenectady Police Department, regarding the death of Tami Lynne.
The causes of the children's deaths were listed diversely between natural, undetermined or of sudden infant death syndrome. A total of six autopsies were executed after Tami Lynne's death, but they did not show any signs of abuse. There were suspicions and community whispers of foul play. Prior to Tami Lynne's passing there was no suspicion found in the sequences of deaths. "There were so many of us in on it, I guess,'" said Dr. Robert L. Sullivan, Schenectady County's Chief Medical Examiner. "If anyone is negligent, I suppose I am. I probably should have said, 'There must be more to it than this.' But we all think, and don't do."
Arrest and interrogation
Marybeth and Joe Tinning were separately taken to the Schenectady Police Department for questioning regarding the death of Tami Lynne. During the police interrogation, Marybeth signed a document confessing to the murders of Tami Lynne, Timothy, and Nathan. Marybeth was arrested and charged with the murder of Tami Lynne.
Police officials initially suspected that Tami Lynne died of SIDS. Dr. Michael M. Baden, the lead forensic pathologist and member of the State Police's special forensic unit, determined Tami Lynne's death resulted from smothering. After charging Marybeth with Tami Lynne's death, officials said that they considered the deaths of the eight other Tinning children to be suspicious. Investigators later said that Jennifer's death was not suspect because it occurred before the baby left the hospital.
Marybeth Tinning made her $100,000 bail payment and was released from custody until her trial date.
Trial and conviction
The murder trial of Tinning began in Schenectady County Court on June 22, 1987. Dr. Bradley Ford, Tami Lynne's pediatrician, testified on behalf of the prosecution, saying Tinning had dismissed his suggestion that, due to her sibling's deaths, she should install a specialized alarm device enabling the monitoring of the baby's breathing and heart rate. Two additional prosecution witnesses (Dr. Marie Valdes-Dapena of Miami, FL, president of the SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) Foundation, and Dr. Thomas Oram (the medical examiner who performed the baby's autopsy) said they diagnosed that Tami Lynne was smothered to death with a soft object.
After the six-week trial, the jury deliberated for 23 hours across three days leading to the conviction of Tinning, 44, on one count of second-degree murder. During their deliberation, jurors called for a read-back of the portions of Joseph Tinning's testimony recounting his wife's alleged confession to State Police. In his testimony, Joseph said that he had a five-minute conversation with Marybeth Tinning following the police questioning, and she told him, 'I killed Tami.' She was acquitted by the seven-man, five-woman jury for the count of 'deliberately' causing the infant's death, but was convicted of murder by 'depraved-indifference to human life' count. Tinning placed her hands over her eyes and sobbed quietly as the verdict was announced. Later her husband, Joseph, said, "I still think she's innocent." Judge Clifford Harrigan immediately vacated Tinning's $100,000 bail, and mandated she be held in the Schenectady County Jail, pending her sentencing trial.
After her trial, she received a sentence of 20 years to life, five years shorter than the maximum penalty for this crime. She was imprisoned at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women.
After her conviction, she appealed on the grounds that her confession was not voluntarily given and that her conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence. In 1988, her appeal was denied by the New York State Supreme Court's Appellate Division.
Tinning's first attempt for parole was in March 2007. At the parole board meeting, Tinning said, "I have to be honest, and the only thing that I can tell you is that I know that my daughter is dead. I live with it every day. I have no recollection and I can't believe that I harmed her. I can't say any more than that." Her parole was denied.
In late January 2009, Tinning went before the parole board for the second time. Tinning stated "I was going through bad times," when she killed her daughter. The parole board again denied her parole, stating that her remorse was "superficial at best." Tinning was eligible for parole again in January 2011.
At the 2011 parole board hearing, Tinning said:
After the deaths of my other children … I just lost it," Tinning told the board Jan. 26. "(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.—
She was denied parole again due to her lack of remorse. In 2011, Tinning was supported by people from Georgetown University Law Center and people she worked with in prison, describing her as the "most loving, most generous, caring person that they have ever met."
When questioned about the murder during her 2013 appearance, she said, "It's just — I can't remember. I mean, I know I did it, but I can't tell you why. There is no reason." The parole board stated "This was an innocent, vulnerable victim who was entrusted in your care as her mother, and you viciously violated that trust causing a senseless loss of this young life." The parole board then said "...discretionary release would so deprecate the severity of the crime as to undermine respect for the law, as you placed your own interest above those of society's youth." — NYS Parole Board (February 18, 2013). Tinning Parole Hearing 2013 (News broadcaster). Albany, New York: CBS6 News. Event occurs at 0:46. Retrieved November 18, 2017. Her next opportunity for parole was in February 2015.
The February 2015 parole board again denied Tinning's release, finding that she continued to demonstrate no understanding nor any remorse for taking her child's life. Tinning was denied parole for the sixth time in January 2017. The parole board ordered her to return in 18 months, rather than the previous standard of 24 months.
Tinning (aged 76) was released on parole August 21, 2018. She served more than 31 years of her 20-years-to-life sentence before being granted parole. Tinning's husband, Joseph, who supported her throughout her incarceration, was there for her release. As part of her release, Tinning will remain under parole supervision for the rest of her life. A Department of Corrections spokesperson stated Tinning lives in Schenectady County, in upstate New York. She has a curfew and must attend domestic violence counseling.
In popular culture
MOM: The Killer, written by detective Mark Gado, ISBN 9780795319228 | pages: 90 | released: July 19, 2011. Author Marc Gado who has a Masters of Science of Criminal Justice from Iona College probes the mind of child killer Marybeth Tinning and provides a perspective, of an accomplished expert, reflecting her tales of denial, neglect and unsolved deaths of her children.
In Unnatural Death, Confessions of a Forensic Pathologist, authored by Michael M. Baden M.D. with Judith Adler Hennessee, ISBN 978-0394569826 | released: 1989, Dr. Michael Baden provides a complete first-person account of his career in forensic pathology, he addresses his findings of Tinning's and other crimes. He shares how he determines the causes from victims of serial killings, exotic rituals, mass disasters, child abuse and drug abuse. Baden has come to the inevitable conclusion that the pursuit for scientific truth is often tainted by the pressures of expediency.
The Home Box Office (HBO) network reported the Tinning case on the first episode of the crime documentary series Autopsy sub-titled Autopsy - Confessions of a Medical Examiner (1994). After the passing of the ninth child Dr. Michael Baden requests the files of all the children's autopsy reports. His findings finally bring Tinning to justice, soon after her arrest he clearly reflects his analysis of her history as being in-line with Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP).
The Investigation Discovery network covered Tinning's case in the forensic series Most Evil sub-titled Most Evil - Murderous Women, Season 1; Episode 3 | TV-14 | 44 min | aired: March 7, 2007. The episode probes into what motivates women who turn to killing. Tinning's case depicts one of the striking differences between men and women killers. In this episode, Dr. Michael Stone, forensic psychologist, Columbia University uses his own mental health scale from 1-22, with 22 being the most dangerous ranking. Dr. Stone's assessment of Tinning is diagnosed at Level-7: Highly Narcissistic & Attention-Seeking. He outlines, in detail, how he reaches his assessment leading to Tinning's ranking.
The Investigation Discovery network released another episode, via the documentary drama series Deadly Women, disclosing the tragedies that each of her children experienced. The episode is sub-titled Deadly Women - Sacrifice Their Blood, Season 5; Episode 9 | TV-14 | 43 min | aired: November 4, 2011. Initially the local community seeks to understand and show compassion to her. The community’s sympathy turns to bitterness and calls out to authorities for action, when she goes one step too far with her ninth child's death.