Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Baby Killer

"I'm Not a Good Mother."

Marybeth Tinning mugshot, profile
Marybeth Tinning mugshot, profile

After the death of Tami Lynne, police investigators from several departments met in Albany to discuss the bizarre Tinning family history. The deaths of the nine children, along with all the existing evidence in each case, were carefully reviewed. Medical reports were scrutinized, statements were reexamined and the available autopsy reports were studied. Even with the mountain of paperwork which spanned a period of 14 years, there was a consensus that a successful prosecution still could not take place without additional evidence. It was decided that Marybeth had to be interviewed again regarding the death of Tami Lynne.

On the afternoon of February 4, 1986, Schenectady police detective Bob Imfeld and State Police Investigator Joseph V. Karas went to Tinning's home to ask her into police headquarters for questioning. Of course, Marybeth was under no obligation since there was no arrest warrant. The police told her that her cooperation was needed if she wanted to clear up suspicions about her child's death. Marybeth agreed, though she later said she felt compelled to go with the police. Shortly after they arrived at the state police building at Loudonville, New York, police said they advised her of the Miranda warnings and she agreed to talk to investigators. At her trial, Marybeth denied she ever received these warnings and said police intimidated her. "She said she understood them," Karas later told the court, "She said she'd waive them. She was willing to proceed without them" (Dec. 9, 1986, Knickerbocker News).

Loudonville State Police Building
Loudonville State Police Building

Marybeth spoke about her life as a child and growing up in Duanesburg. She stated that she grieved over the deaths of each of her nine children and denied any role in what happened to them. With the exception of Jennifer, whose cause of death was an infection, she assumed her children died from SIDS or genetic problems. Concerning Tami Lynne's death, Marybeth said that on the night of December 19, 1985, she put her daughter to sleep in her crib like she normally did. Tami Lynne was crying that night, she said, which annoyed her because it made her feel like an unfit mother. She said that she watched television for a while alone. When she returned to check on the baby, Marybeth discovered she wasn't breathing. She said she picked up the baby and made an attempt to revive her. But nothing worked. Then she woke her husband and called for an ambulance.

But police didn't believe her story. It was too much like the other seven deaths in the Tinning household, all of which occurred when Marybeth was alone with the child. And SIDS deaths only occur while the baby is in the crib. A baby does not die from SIDS in its mother's arms. In fact, picking up a baby is the only known way to prevent a sudden infant death. In all the cases, there were no other witnesses. Most of the facts available on each death had come from Marybeth. She told the initial story; she provided the much-needed details; she described the last moments of each child's life. It was all too convenient and there was no one to challenge her version of events.

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