Marybeth Tinning seemed like the unluckiest mother on Earth. Over a 13-year-period from 1972 to 1985, each of Tinning’s nine children died under mysterious circumstances.
Initially, doctors attributed some of the infants’ death to SIDS. They also considered the possibility that some of them died from a rare hereditary disorder.
But after the 1985 death of 4-month-old Tami Lynne, the shocking truth about the Schenectady, New York, woman emerged: Tinning admitted to New York State investigators that she smothered the infant to death when she wouldn’t stop crying. She also allegedly confessed to killing two of her other children.
Though Tinning, now 75, later recanted her confessions, investigators believe she killed all nine of her children because she enjoyed the attention she received when a child died (an extreme type of Munchausen syndrome by proxy).
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Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist who worked with prosecutors on the case, tells PEOPLE Tinning is responsible for “a serial killing of babies.”
“I think it was a combination. Not just sympathy, but it was a combination of being overwhelmed by the babies, as well as the fact that she didn’t get punished for it,” says Baden.
Tinning, who worked odd jobs as a waitress and school bus driver, also allegedly confessed to trying to kill her husband Joe in 1974 by poisoning his grape juice with phenobarbital using pills she reportedly got from a friend with epilepsy.
After her 1987 murder conviction in Tami Lynne’s death, Tinning was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. But on July 10, she was granted parole — and is now scheduled to be released from prison as early as Aug. 21. She plans to live with Joe.
Authorities tell PEOPLE that Tinning will be required to abide by a curfew and participate in domestic violence counseling, and will remain under community supervision for the rest of her life.
Baden tells PEOPLE he doesn’t believe Tinning currently poses a danger to society, saying “it’s perfectly reasonable to let her get out on parole.”
But the decision to free Tinning has left others deeply unsettled.
“It’s ridiculous to let someone out that has done that to children,” New York State senator Jim Tedisco, who has vocally opposed Tinning’s release, tells PEOPLE.
“I am definitely outraged, but also sad and fearful.”