ALBANY — In her seventh and final bid for parole in July, Marybeth Tinning expressed how she felt about killing her daughter, and how she felt about herself after 31 years of incarceration.
She told the board how she struggled for years to understand why she killed 4-month-old Tami Lynne in 1985, according to a transcript of the hearing released to The Daily Gazette.
“I just want you to know that you will never know how sick my heart is, how empty I feel for what I’ve done; that’s all I can say,” Tinning told the board.
The state Department of Corrections this month released the transcript of Tinning’s final appearance before the parole board, more than seven weeks after her appearance and more than two weeks after her release to parole.
The director of a Georgetown University program that worked with Tinning to help gain her release offered insight into Tinning’s life in prison and her life in the weeks since her release.
“Whatever happened in her life that precipitated the crime she was convicted for, she is a different person now,” said Abbe Smith, director of the Georgetown program. “That is the thing about such a lengthy incarceration.”
Transcript: Read the full transcript at story’s end
Tinning, who turned 76 Tuesday, served more than 31 years of her 20-years-to-life sentence before being granted parole. She walked out of the medium-security Taconic Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, Westchester County, on Aug. 21. Her husband, Joseph, who remained supportive throughout her incarceration, was there for her release, as was Smith. As a condition of her release, Tinning will be under parole supervision for the rest of her life.
Tinning’s case gained national notoriety, after it was revealed that all nine of her children died young — between 1972 and 1985 — with eight of those deaths being considered suspicious. An adopted child was among those who died under suspicious circumstances. She was indicted in connection with three deaths, but prosecutors pursued only Tami Lynne’s case. Tinning has denied killing her other children.
Reached by telephone, Tinning said she was doing fine, but otherwise declined to answer questions.
“No, I have nothing to say,” she said before hanging up.
Also see: Tinning Sentence Is 20 Years to Life For Killing Baby, Oct. 2, 1987
Smith’s program, called the Criminal Defense and Prisoner Advocacy Clinic, prepared a lengthy parole packet on Tinning’s behalf, which one of the commissioners took time to praise as impressive and noted the board “took special interest” in it. The commissioner summarized the packet as saying Tinning “committed a terrible crime, but (Tinning has) taken every possible opportunity to improve and develop” herself, according to the transcript.
The commissioners noted multiple programs she completed, including ones called “Alternative to Violence” and “Transitional Services.” Her last prison “ticket,” essentially a cited rule violation, was in 1995. She had three total in her 31 years in custody, according to the transcript.
Smith portrayed the Tinning of 2018 as changed by her incarceration. Smith called her “a kind and humble person who has done her time — and nobody would ever say that the time she did was easy.”
Tinning appeared before the parole board July 10 by video conference. She was notified of the decision to release her three days later. The transcript was only released to The Daily Gazette, by state correction officials, after multiple requests and after an additional request for an explanation about why the document was taking so long to be provided.
According to the transcript, Tinning reiterated a narrative she provided at previous parole board appearances — that she killed Tami Lynne, but she didn’t know why.
“I killed my daughter, my baby daughter, on that day,” Tinning told the board.
Also see: Child killer Marybeth Tinning granted parole, July 16, 2018
Parole board members asked what happened on that day.
“I could sit here and tell you a story, but I’ll only be able to tell you the truth, and that is I really don’t know,” she responded.
She said she didn’t mean to kill Tami Lynne.
As recently as her 2017 appearance, she said she smothered Tami Lynne with a pillow. That detail appeared to be missing from the July appearance. In her initial appearance in 2007, she indicated she could not believe she would harm Tami Lynne at all.
A constant at each of her seven appearances before the parole board: She denied harming any of her other children, a denial she repeated at her final appearance, during a segment that touched on the death of her adopted son Michael, who died in 1981.
“I didn’t harm (Michael) with my own hand or any of the other children,” Tinning told the board.
At another point in the hearing, the board referenced the deaths of her other children and the murder of Tami Lynne.
Tinning appeared to interrupt the part referencing her conviction.
“Yes, but I don’t want you to get the idea that I don’t ever think about it,” she told the board. “It’s just — it’s a constant. I think about what I did constantly, and I just don’t like me. I’m beginning to like me a little bit, but I just — I just don’t.”
She told the board she loved her children. The board asked her how she thought that looked “from the outside.”
“It looks to me like I didn’t do what I was supposed to do,” she said. “I should have — I should have asked for help from someone somewhere, but I didn’t.”
Also see: Convicted child killer Marybeth Tinning released, Aug. 21, 2018
Tinning’s comments about what she planned to do if released appear to be in a redacted portion of the hearing record. At one point, after the board asked her what her other plans were if granted release, she indicated she looked forward to sitting down and having a cup of coffee.
In their efforts to get Tinning released, Smith’s Georgetown group got a psychotherapist and a forensic psychologist to examine her.
They also gathered letters of support. Smith shared one of those letters, written by Elaine A. Lord, the former prison superintendent at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Lord also cited programming Tinning had completed, “both to her benefit and to that of other women.”
“In a facility where many of the inmates required much attention and even discipline, Mrs. Tinning served her time quietly,” Lord wrote. “I believe she suffered and felt remorse for her crime each and every day.”
There for her release, Smith said it appeared to take Tinning some time for her freedom to sink in.
“I think she was very happy to be reunited with her husband and to go home with him,” Smith said, “and that was touching to see.”
Tinning has been working since then to get basics, like identification and health care, as well as acclimating to a world now reliant on cellphones and the Internet. Smith said she expects Tinning to quietly spend her time around the house with her husband.
She has also been doing what she needs to do to remain free, Smith said.
“She has been very, very dutiful about being in touch with her parole officer,” Smith said. “Trust me when I say she will not do anything even to break the smallest rule. The last thing she wants is to go back to prison.”
Daily Gazette reporter Bill Buell contributed to this story
- 1987: Tinning Convicted of Murdering Infant Daughter
- 1987: Tinning Sentence Is 20 Years to Life For Killing Baby
- 2017: Child killer Tinning denied parole for 6th time
- 2018: Child killer Marybeth Tinning granted parole
- 2018: Convicted child killer Marybeth Tinning released