Doctors initially attributed the death of some of the infants to SIDS and speculated about a possible hereditary disorder, and the 75-year-old Tinning was convicted only of murdering 4-month-old daughter Tami Lynne in 1985. She was recently granted parole and is scheduled to walk out of prison as early as Aug. 21.
News of Tinning’s impending release has outraged many familiar with her case — especially considering Tinning confessed to killing two of her other children before recanting that confession.
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney, who didn’t prosecute Tinning but has opposed her release, doesn’t think Tinning has shown true remorse, pointing to her inconsistent accounts in appearances before the parole board.
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According to Carney, Tinning initially said she didn’t remember how Tami Lynne died but then later owned up to the crime. Still, she maintained to the board she didn’t kill any of her other children — despite once confessing she’d killed weeks-old Timothy in 1973 and 5-month-old Nathan in 1975.
“The problem I have is that she showed absolutely no insight into her behavior or acknowledged in any way what she did,” says Carney.
“I can’t believe you can say she is rehabilitated when she refuses to admit the true extent of her conduct,” he adds.
Other local residents are shocked as well. Audrey Hotaling, who babysat for Tinning’s son Michael before the 2-year-old’s 1981 death, tells PEOPLE her first reaction was “I don’t want to see her face.”
She adds, “I feel emotional about the whole situation. … I never dreamed there’d be a day where I’d be going, ‘Wow, I’m gonna run into her in the grocery store.’ “
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 she’s released from prison, Tinning plans to live with Joe.
Some investigators believe Tinning killed her children because she enjoyed the attention she received when a child died (an extreme type of Munchausen syndrome by proxy).
Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist who worked with prosecutors on the case, tells PEOPLE, “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.”
Baden tells PEOPLE he doesn’t believe Tinning currently poses a danger to society, saying that “it’s perfectly reasonable to let her get out on parole.”
“She’s not going to kill again,” Baden says. “She only kills the babies she has.”
But New York State senator Jim Tedisco, who has vocally opposed Tinning’s release, says his objection is based on principle.
“If you killed nine children, you should be not deemed safe to be in society,” he says.
“Some of the crimes are so heinous to humanity that you just can’t talk about rehabilitation,” he adds. “This is one of those cases.”