"About three babies in a thousand die from crib death. The odds against two crib deaths in one family are enormous. The odds against three are astronomical" (Baden). "There is no known genetic disease that can cause sudden death in healthy children," he wrote. “A baby will not suffocate from snarled in blankets and bed sheets."
Dr. Michael Baden, Medical Examiner
MaryBeth Roe was born Septemper 11 1942, in Duanesburg, NY. She had one brother. As a child, she attempted suicide several times. After she graduated from highschool, she worked a series of entry level, minimu wage jobs. In 1963, she met Joe Tinning on a blind date. They married in spring 1965. MaryBeth was a nurse's aide at Ellis Hospital in 1965.
They had two children, Barbara and Joseph, during the first five years of their marriage. In December 1971, a third child, Jennifer, died in the hosptial without ever going home when she was seven days old. This was close to the time that MaryBeth's father died. The following month, January 1972, MaryBeth took two years old, Joseph, to the emergency room, claiming that he had a seizure. He was kept under observation but the doctors could find nothing wrong and he was sent home. Several hours later, she brought him back to ER, dead claiming he was tangled in his sheets.
Almost six weeks later, Barbara, 4, was in the emergency room. MaryBeth claimed the child had convulsions. The doctors wanted to keep Barbara overnight, but her mother refused to allow it and took her home. Hours later, she was returned to ER with Barbara, who was unconscious. Reye's Syndrome was blamed for the death. All three of the children died within 90 days, of unexplained circumstances.
MaryBeth gave birth to a son in November 1973, he lived for three weeks. In March 1975, her fifth child, a son, was born. He took his last breath in September 1975. In August 1978, they adopted a baby boy, Michael. Two months later, in October, she gave birth to Mary Frances, her sixth child.
In January 1979, MaryBeth claimed Mary Frances had a seizure. The emergency room staff revived her. In February, Mary Frances, was brought to the emergency room brain dead.
In November, MaryBeth gave birth to Jonathan, her seventh child. In March 1980, she brought Jonathan to the hospital unconscious, he was revived. He was transferred to Boston Hospital for a thorough examination. There was no medical reason to explain why he stopped breathing. Jonathan returned home. On March 24, 1980 he was brought to the hospital brain-dead.
In March 1981, Michael, their two and a half years old adopted son, was brought to the doctor's office, he was pronounced dead. Michael's death dispelled any theory that the deaths were genetic.
In August 1985, the ninth child, Tami Lynne was born. December 19, a neighbour, who was a practical nurse, went shopping with MaryBeth and visited her home. That evening she received a call for help from her. When she arrived, Tami Lynne lying on a changing table, not moving, no pulse and not breathing. Tami was pronounced dead.at the emergency room.
MaryBeth was always alone with the babies when they died.
In her statement to police, she said, "I got up and went to her [Tami's] crib and tried to do something with her to get her to stop crying. I finally used the pillow from my bed and put it over her head. I held it until she stopped crying." Then she put the pillow on the couch so she could tell her husband she had been sleeping.
Before she signed the statement she added, "I did not do anything to Jennifer, Joseph, Barbara, Michael, Mary Frances, Jonathan, Just these three, Timothy, Nathan and Tami. I smothered them each with a pillow because I'm not a good mother. I'm not a good mother because of the other children. MaryBeth Tinning 1-4-86 8 pm" She later retracted her confession.
MaryBeth's sister in law said she never spoke of the death of her children. Her brother said she could be paranoid and violent when angry. MaryBeth expressed a fear that her brother and sister in law would disown her.
MaryBeth is suspected of trying to poison her husband, but was never charged.
In 1987, Mary Beth was convicted of killing one child, Tammy. The trial focused on whether her confession was the result of police coercion. Prosecutors were unable to prove she was responsible for the deaths of her eight other children, none of whom lived beyond age five. A pathologist testified that Tami died of suffocation. She was sentenced from 20 years to life in prison. She is incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.
In 2009, MaryBeth's explanation for her crimes was that she was "going through bad times" when she murdered her daughter. In Febuary 2011, she was denied parole for the third time since 2007.
She told the parole board in January that she was a "messed up person" who smothered her four-month old daughter because she was afraid that the infant would die. "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."
When the parole commissioner asked MaryBeth what she thought about while her children were dying, she 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 added that the deaths of the other children were caused by sudden infant death syndrome.
Behind bars she successfully completed nonviolence and anger management programs and works for a chaplain. She has also worked with AIDS patients while in prison. Those that have worked with her in prison have written letters of support on her behalf. Georgetown Law School, described her as the "most loving, most generous, caring person that they have ever met."
She will be up for parole, again, in January 2013. She shows no genuine remorse. If released she will go home to Joe who visits her once a month.