February 4, 1986
Marybeth Tinning is arrested for the murder of her 9th child
Tinning and her family suffered loss after loss of their children, none of whom reached their 5th birthday. At first, doctors dismissed the deaths as bad genes, though when their adopted son Michael also died, no case was opened to investigate the death. Despite the pattern of deaths, doctors, police, social workers, neighbors, and even Mr. Tinning suspected anything until the death of the last child. Originally listed as SIDS as the official cause of Tami Lynne’s death, a forensics team established she had died from being smothered. Some of the other children were exhumed to determine a different cause of death, but no signs of abuse were present.
Tinning signed a statement during interrogation, confessing to the murders of Tami Lynne, Timothy, and Nathan, but she was only charged with the murder of Tami Lynne. Though many have speculated her motive was Münchausen syndrome by proxy (where a person yearns for the attention they receive while a person under their care is ill), she was never officially diagnosed. She was sentenced to 20 years to life.
The timeline of victims:
January 3, 1972: Jennifer (8 days old) dies from acute meningitis (she is believed to be the only death above suspicion as she never left the hospital)
January 20, 1972: Joseph (2) dies (death attributed to SIDS)
March 2, 1972: Barbara (4) dies after a day in a comatose state (death attributed to Reye’s Syndrome)
December 10, 1973: Timothy (19 days old) dies (death attributed to SIDS)
September 2, 1975: Nathan (5 months old) “suddenly stops breathing” while riding in a car with Marybeth
January 20, 1979: Mary Frances (1 month old) is taken to the hospital and revived
January 20, 1979: Mary Frances (2 months old) is brought back to the hospital, braindead. Two days later she is taken off life support
March 24, 1980: Johnathan (4 months old) is taken off life support after being comatose for 4 weeks
March 2, 1981: Michael (2), Marybeth’s adopted son, is taken to the hospital when he won’t wake up, and is pronounced dead
December 20, 1985: Tami Lynne (3 months old) is smothered with a pillow