LIVINGSTON—Tara J. Tomlin, 20, of Livingston is in the Columbia County Jail without bail on a charge of second degree murder, a class A-1 felony, accused in the death of her newborn son, found dead in a dumpster, November 27.
Ms. Tomlin was at work as a clerk in the Bells Pond Xtra Mart, a convenience store/diner at the intersection of Routes 9/23, 9, 9H/23 and 82, when she gave birth to the full-term, 7.5-pound living infant in the restroom in the early morning hours of November 27.
She allegedly placed her newborn baby in a plastic garbage bag and put the bag in a dumpster behind the store.
Ms. Tomlin remained at the store for some time after the birth until another store employee arrived to work.
She then drove herself home, where she lives with her father.
A source with knowledge of the investigation told The Columbia Paper, a male employee working in the diner section of the establishment called State Police between 3:30 and 4 a.m. to report that he heard a baby crying in the dumpster. A few moments later he called 911 to make the same report, when the State Police arrived. The barracks is just a short distance down the road from the convenience store on Route 9.
Troopers searched the dumpster but did not find the baby and left.
About two hours after the initial call, between 6:20 and 7 a.m., the store employee who arrived to relieve Ms. Tomlin, called authorities to report seeing blood on Ms. Tomlin and finding blood in the restroom.
Troopers returned to the store, searched again and found the infant’s body between 8 and 9 a.m. in the same dumpster they had searched earlier.
Why troopers did not initially find the child, who may have been alive when they first looked in the dumpster, is unknown. Questions posed to State Police about the two searches and whether or not they are investigating this issue received the following email response from Troop K Public Information Officer Trooper Melissa McMorris:
“Following Ms. Tomlin’s arrest, the case has been turned over to the District Attorney’s Office. All further inquiries are to be directed to the Columbia County District Attorney.”
District Attorney Paul Czajka said by phone Wednesday morning, “There is no part of this incident or its circumstances that the State Police and I are not investigating.”
After the baby was found during the second search, five hours later, Greenport Rescue Squad emergency medical technicians determined the child was dead.
Columbia County Coroner Michael Blasl removed the body for autopsy by Pathologist Jeffrey Hubbard, MD, at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. Dr Hubbard concluded the cause of death was homicide, specifically, asphyxiation.
DA Czajka said the time of death was not able to be fixed.
Troopers subsequently found Ms. Tomlin at her house and called an ambulance to take her to Columbia Memorial Hospital.
She remained there until the afternoon of November 28, when she was discharged, arrested by police and taken for arraignment in Livingston Court before Town Justice Robert Q. Moore.
Ms. Tomlin’s attorney, Michael Howard, requested that Justice Moore order a psychiatric exam for his client with District Attorney Paul Czajka’s consent. Justice Moore ordered the exam, which will be performed by two experts independently.
Some of Ms. Tomlin’s family was present in the courtroom, the DA said.
She was then sent to the Columbia County Jail without bail.
The DA said that if the two psychiatric experts agree that Ms. Tomlin is not competent to stand trial, she will be committed to a mental institution until she is. If both experts agree that she is competent, her trial will go forward, unless Mr. Howard disagrees and makes further motions. If the experts disagree about Ms. Tomlin’s psychiatric state, a court hearing will be conducted.
To contact Diane Valden email