The woman at the center of one of Schenectady’s most notorious cases will remain behind bars after a state parole board denied her release last month for the sixth time.
If Marybeth Tinning — suspected in the deaths of several of her children — gained any sort of reprieve, however, it’s that the parole board is bringing her back again in 18 months, rather than the previous standard of two years.
Tinning, now 74, is serving 20 years to life in state prison for her 1987 conviction in the smothering death of her 4-month-old daughter Tami Lynne in 1985.
Her case gained national attention as a prime example of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental disorder in which a caregiver draws attention or sympathy to themselves through false symptoms, or, in Tinning’s case, death. Rolling Stone cited the case just last year in a post on the disorder.
All nine of Tinning’s children died young from 1972 to 1985, eight under suspicious circumstances. An adopted child’s death was among the eight.
She was indicted in three deaths, but prosecutors pursued only the Tami Lynne case. She has denied killing the others.
In denying her release, the parole board noted Tinning’s sense of remorse, but also a continuing lack of full insight into her crimes.
“Your insight failed to express the extreme vulnerability of your children, the gravity of your disregard for the human life, and the law,” the board wrote.
In her latest parole board visit, Tinning again admitted to killing Tami Lynne. She again told the board she smothered Tami Lynne with a pillow.
“She was a lovely child and there was no reason for me to do what I did at that time,” Tinning told the parole board. “I just — I don’t think I had the capabilities of being a good mother at all.”
The parole board did not ask her directly this time if she harmed the others, only what happened to them. She told the board they died of “various medical conditions,” adding “according to the medical community.”
Instead, the board asked what the deaths of the others did to her. “It’s just made me hollow inside,” she said.
Her supporters include her husband, Joseph Tinning, and her trial attorney, Paul Callahan. She also has an attorney helping her with her appearances. They’ve held out hope for release due to her continuing low assessed risk to others.
In her latest appearance, she cited apparent health concerns as she and her husband reach their mid-70s, including five days spent hospitalized recently. Exact health details are blacked out in a released transcript.
But insight appears to be key for the board, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said.
“If she’s not going to give any ground on that, I’m not surprised they don’t view her as rehabilitated,” Carney said.
Tinning is now serving her time in a medium security facility. The state previously held her in a maximum security prison.
She concluded her latest comments to the board by asking for mercy. “I know I did a terrible thing and no matter whether you let me go tomorrow or whether you never let me go … my heart will always be empty and I will never, ever be really happy again. … I just ask, please, that you could show some mercy on me. That’s all.”