Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Baby Killer

**Update: Parole Support from Unusual Source

Marybeth Tinning
Marybeth Tinning

In one of the most bizarre and perplexing murder cases in the history of American criminal justice, Marybeth Tinning, now sixty-four, appeared before a New York parole board last week. After a contentious trial in 1987, in which Tinning was convicted of the murder of her baby daughter, Tami Lynne, age four months, the former school bus driver was sentenced to twenty years to life.

During the police investigation that led to that trial, Tinning also admitted to the murder of a son, Nathan, in 1975. But there was so much more. Police were convinced that Tinning murdered all eight of her children over a period of fourteen years. She was later indicted in the killing of two of those children, but charges were later dismissed for lack of evidence.

Though she was never convicted in any of the other deaths, and it seems likely she never will be convicted, suspicions persist that Marybeth Tinning is one of America's most unusual female serial killers.

Tinning's parole hearing was held this past March 29, at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York. It is the same prison that holds Pamela Smart, the New Hampshire school teacher convicted in the murder plot of her husband in 1990. Also incarcerated there is Carolyn Warmus, the blonde heiress who was convicted in 1992 of the killing of her lover's wife, a crime frequently referred to as the "Fatal Attraction Murder" by the New York tabloids. Tinning appeared before the three-member board who interviewed her about her crimes, her incarceration and her hopes for the future. It was her first application for parole.

Marybeth Tinning's bid for release had support from some surprising sources. Oddly, former State Police Investigator William Barnes, who elicited her confession and whose testimony helped convict Tinning at her trial, stands behind efforts to have her released. "She is no danger to society at that age," Barnes said to reporters from Albany's Times-Union. "What harm is she to somebody and how much are you going to get from her by keeping her in?" Barnes was also joined by County Judge Clifford Harrigan, who sentenced Tinning to prison back in 1987. According to press reports, he allegedly wrote a letter of recommendation to the board that she be released.

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