Rare glimpse into child killer's mind

In appearance before parole board, Marybeth Tinning said prior child deaths ''damaged'' her
By ROBERT GAVIN Staff writer
Published 12:00 a.m., Friday, February 11, 2011

ALBANY -- In her most expansive interview to date, notorious child killer, Marybeth Tinning, told the state parole board last month she was a "messed up person" who smothered her 4-month daughter with a pillow because she feared the infant would die.

"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."

Tinning, 68, formerly of Schenectady, is serving 20 years to life at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County for killing her daughter, Tami Lynne , on Dec. 20, 1985. On Feb. 5 she was denied parole for the third time since becoming eligible for release in 2007.

Tami Lynne was among nine of Tinning's children, including an adopted son, who did not live beyond the age of 4. Authorities suspected Tinning's first child died naturally -- but that she killed the other eight.

The Times Union obtained transcripts of the Jan. 26 parole hearing at Bedford Hills in which Tinning reveals her guilt in the murder more than ever before. In 2009, her only explanation for her grisly crime was that she was "going through bad times" when she committed the murder.

And in 2007 she was admonished by the board for a lack of remorse.

On Jan. 26, parole commissioner, Mary Ross, asked Tinning: "This charge involved the murder of your 4-month-old child who was smothered with a pillow, is this right?"

"Yes, ma'am," Tinning replied.

"Did you do that?" Ross asked.

"Yes, ma'am, I did," Tinning answered.

Ross later asked Tinning what she thought when her children were dying.

Tinning replied: "Two things that I wanted in life was to be married to someone who cared for me and to have children and, other than that, I can't give you a reason."

She said sudden infant death syndrome caused the deaths of her other children.

In the interview, Ross noted Tinning has certificates of achievement from nonviolence and anger management programs and that she now works for a chaplain. Ross and parole commissioner, Jared Brown, also cited letters of support for Tinning from people she has worked with in prison, as well as from Georgetown Law School, with some describing her as the "most loving, most generous, caring person that they have ever met."

At one point Ross asked Tinning, "When you look back at your actions ... what insight do you have into it or yourself?"

Tinning replied: "When I look back I see a very damaged and just a messed up person and I have tried to become a better person while I was here, trying to be able to stand on my own and ask for help when I need it, others when they need it. ... (S)ometimes I try not to look in the mirror and when I do, I just, there is no words that I can express now. I feel none. I'm just, just none."

Tinning, noting she worked with AIDS patients in prison, said she would like to volunteer with such patients if released -- and that some places have told her husband, Joseph, they would be willing to use her.

She said she would live with her husband if released. He visits once a month but it is "getting harder," she told the board. Tinning was also suspected of trying to poison her husband, but never charged.

On Feb. 5, the parole board's decision found Tinning's release would be incompatible with public safety and would diminish the seriousness of her crime.

She is eligible for parole again in January 2013.

The parole board's ruling stated: "This decision is based on the following factors: You stand convicted of the serious offense of murder in which you caused the death of your infant daughter by smothering her with a pillow. This was a heinous crime. You were in a position of trust and violated that trust by taking the life of an innocent child."

Reach Robert Gavin rgavin@timesunion.com.

Return To The Tinning Children's Story
Read An Interview With Mary Beth




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