You never know about some people. Sometimes, even those who look the nicest, most decent on the outside, hide the darkest of secrets. Take for instance the tragic tale of Marybeth and Joe Tinnings of Schenectady, New York.
Their early lives as a couple were marked with several horrible tragedies, each one more unexpected than the last, but when more seemed to follow them with each passing year, the police began to suspect something far more sinister was at work…
Marybeth Tinning grew up in Schenectady, New York in the late 1940s. Her father, a reportedly abusive man, worked at the General Electric Company and while he did his best to provide for his family, seriously affected her self-esteem. Still eventually she moved out and got a job of her own. Though it didn’t last long.
Marybeth worked a series of low-paying, unskilled jobs that amounted to very little, but eventually, she became a nurse’s aide at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. It was in that year that she met and married the man who would become her husband on a blind date. By 1965 she and Joe Tinning were married…
Family Falls Apart
She gave birth to the couple’s first child, Barbara, in 1967. Little Barbara was followed by Joseph Jr. soon after and then by Jennifer, their third daughter. Unfortunately, Jennifer died a mere eight days after being born: a victim of the deadly disease, Spinal Meningitis. Seventeen days later, two-year-old Joe Jr. died as well. He’d succumbed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome…or so the doctor’s believed.
A mere six weeks later, the Tinnings found themselves rushing four-year-old Barbara, their first child, to the emergency room. They claimed that she was suffering from convulsions, but the doctors found nothing wrong. The Tinnings took their daughter home, but unfortunately, she died the next day…
Doctors having chalked it up to Reyes Syndrome but something was very wrong. Indeed, within three months of one another, all three of the Tinning children were dead and buried. Each one of a more mysterious illness than the last. Still, as unfortunate as it seemed, all the authorities could do was chalk it up to coincidence.
Filling the Void
Two years later, on Thanksgiving Day, 1973, Marybeth gave birth to another boy named Timothy. By December 10th, little Timothy had gone the way of his brother Joe, another apparent victim of SIDS…
Undeterred by the awful circumstances that had seemed to have affected their children, the Tinnings kept trying. On Easter Sunday, 1975, Nathan Tinning, the couple’s fifth child, was born. He, like his siblings before him, would only survive a little while. Four months later, Nathan stopped breathing while in the car with his mother and died.
Three years later, in August of 1978, the couple again decided they wanted a child in their lives. So, Joe and Marybeth went out and adopted an infant boy named Michael. Ironically, Marybeth was pregnant at the time with little Mary Frances. But four months after she was born, she too would die of SIDS. Michael was in danger and he didn’t even know it…
Unfortunately for little Michael, no one yet knew of the sinister things the Tinnings might have been doing to their children and in November 1979, Marybeth gave birth to another little boy, Jonathan. But it seemed that even her seventh child was not immune to SIDS and Jonathan died in March of 1980.
Michael Gone Too
It seemed remarkable that Michael, the Tinnings’ adopted son, could have remained alive up until this point. He was two-and-a-half years old when he was finally brought to the paediatrician. Apparently he had just stopped breathing one day. The doctor unwrapped the sheet to see if he could save him, but Michael was long gone…
Couldn’t be Genetic
Michael of course was adopted, so it was no abundantly clear that all the other deceased Tinning had not shared some sort of mysterious affliction. There was no way that all seven natural children had shared an inborn genetic defect. But still, the police couldn’t prove anything.
Poor Little Tami Lyne
Finally, on December 20, 1985, the Tinnings’ eighth natural child, little Tami Lynne Tinning, was smothered in her crib by the one suspect the police had never truly looked at; Marybeth Tinning. The manic and murderous mom was investigation from the very moment the authorities heard what happened to Tami Lynne…
Marybeth Tinning had given birth to seven previous children and each one had died either as a toddler or an infant. Tami Lynne now made nine dead children in fourteen years. It was time to take a more serious look at the mother, who it must be said was the only person present in the deaths of all the babies.
Come to a Head
This wasn’t the first time the cops had their suspicions of course, they had been building a case for years. Of course, dragging their feet resulted in the deaths of nine innocent children. Tami Lynne was the last straw and with her death, the police took Marybeth into custody…
The police interrogation was brutal and after a few hours of intense scrutiny, Marybeth Tinning finally cracked. She confessed to murdering Timothy, Nathan, and Tami Lynne, but not the others. Her argument for the murders was even more unnerving than the admission itself.
Digging Up the Truth
“I smothered them each with a pillow, because I’m not a good mother.” she said dispassionately to the detectives. The three little bodies were exhumed, but unfortunately had decomposed so much that they couldn’t provide the police with any information. To make matters worse, after a few weeks, Marybeth threw a wrinkle into the plan…
As it turned out, a few weeks later, Marybeth Tinning recanted her confession. She claimed that she’d been coerced into making it by the harsh detectives who had chosen her moment of tragedy to haul her in. Nevertheless, the authorities still wanted to charge her with the murder of Tami Lynne.
Standing Beside Her
Although at first they believed Joe to be a part of it, investigators inevitably dismissed him. But even so he stood by his wife, even after she’d publicly revealed she’d tried to kill him in 1974 by poisoning his grape juice with barbiturates. Marybeth Tinning was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years to life behind bars. Though she maintained her innocence for years after…
Marybeth Tinning has come up for parole three times since 2007 and in 2011 she admitted to the parole board that it was she who killed Tami Lynne, though only Tami Lynne. “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.”
Her next hearing is said to come up in 2017, but at 74 years old, it’s unlikely she’ll ever leave the Bedford Correctional Facility for Women. Though it was never proven that she killed the other children, her state of mind and unabashed initial confession make it clear that she is getting just what she deserves.