Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Baby Killer

Tami Lynne

On August 22, 1985, Marybeth, then 42, gave birth to her eighth child, Tami Lynne. Like all the other children in Marybeth's care, she was destined to have a short life. On December 19, next-door neighbor, Cynthia Walter, who was also a practical nurse, went shopping with Marybeth and later visited her home. "I stayed for a few minutes and I wanted to hold Tami," Walter later testified, "but Marybeth asked me to give the baby back, so I handed her back and then I went home" (June 25, 1987, Albany Times Union)

Later that night, Walter received a frantic telephone call from Marybeth. "Cynthia!" she said. "Get over here right now!" When she went next door to see what was wrong, she found little Tami Lynne lying on a changing table. "She wasn't moving," Walter said in court, "She was purple and I couldn't feel pulse or respiration. She was not breathing" (ibid).

Walter tried to determine what was wrong, but there was nothing obvious. At that point, an EMS team arrived at the scene. They immediately scooped up Tami Lynne and sped off to the hospital. When Cynthia asked Marybeth what happened, she told her neighbor that Tami Lynne "was tangled in the blanket." At the emergency room, the baby was pronounced dead. There was no cause of death apparent to the emergency room staff, but since they were fully aware of the Tinning family history, suspicion quickly settled upon Marybeth.

Tami Lynne Tinning
Tami Lynne Tinning

The next morning, Cynthia Walter visited the Tinning home to see if she could be of any comfort to Marybeth, who she assumed would be grieving over the death of her newborn daughter. When she entered the house, Walter found Joe and Marybeth in the kitchen. "They were sitting there, eating breakfast," Walter said later in court, "and I told them where I'd be if they needed me" (June 25, 1987, Knickerbocker News). Later, after Tami Lynne's funeral, Marybeth had people over her house for a brunch. Her demeanor had changed noticeably. "She was smiling. She was eating, conversing with everyone there," Walter testified, "didn't appear to be upset." Sandy Roe, who was married to Marybeth's brother, later testified that when she met with Marybeth after Tami Lynne's death, she didn't seem upset. "We spoke about Christmas," Roe said, "She never really talked about the death of the baby. It didn't seem to bother her."

Schenectady Police Department patch
Schenectady Police Department

But police, who had suspected something was amiss at the Tinning household, went to interview Marybeth the same day. Schenectady Police Investigator Bob Imfeld questioned her about Tami Lynne's death and wanted details on how she died. "I know what you're here for," Marybeth told him, "you're going to arrest me and take me to jail" (Egginton). An autopsy failed to provide a valid medical reason for the death of Tami Lynne and as a result, her demise was listed as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

As for Marybeth's husband, nothing seemed to bother Joe. After each death, he would dress up in the same clothes and dutifully go to the services at the same funeral parlor. He would sit quietly at the wake without complaining and rarely make conversation with anyone. "There were things to make me suspicious," he once said to a Times Union reporter, "but you have to trust your wife. She has her things to do and as long as she gets them done you don't ask no questions" (Wallace).

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