Tomlin sentenced to 5 years in death of her infant

HUDSON–Tara J. Tomlin, 21, of Livingston will spend up to five years in prison and undergo five years of post-release supervision in connection with the death of her newborn son.

Ms. Tomlin pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter in October and was sentenced by Columbia County Judge Jonathan Nichols in county court, Wednesday, December 7.

While on duty as a clerk at the Bells Pond Xtra Mart convenience store in Livingston, Ms. Tomlin gave birth to a living 7½ pound baby boy in the store restroom in the early morning hours of November 27, 2015. She then put the child in a garbage bag and deposited the bag in a dumpster behind the store. The child died of homicide by asphyxiation, according to a pathologist’s report.

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Tara Tomlin is pictured in a file photo with her attorney Michael Howard when she entered a guilty plea to first degree manslaughter in October. Photo by Lance Wheeler

When asked by Judge Nichols if she wanted to make a statement, Ms. Tomlin said she was “really sorry for my actions” and “something like this will never happen again.”

Prior to pronouncing sentence, Judge Nichols said this was “one of the saddest cases” he had ever presided over.

In a filmed interview with newsman Lance Wheeler following the court session, Ms. Tomlin’s attorney, Michael Howard with the Public Defender’s Office, said his client was fortunate to have had such a “compassionate judge” who “went out on a limb” in handing down the “lowest sentence” in the possible range of 5 to 25 years.

Mr. Howard said his client had earned a “local diploma” from Germantown Central School at the age of 19½ and by all accounts was “a hardworking young woman.”

He said part of the reason the charge was reduced from second degree murder to manslaughter was that she acted under throes of extreme emotional disturbance and did not know what to do.

Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka told Mr. Wheeler following the sentencing that he did not disagree with the judge’s “saddest case” evaluation. He said there were many ways the birth could have been handled, such as in accordance with the Safe Haven Law, but Ms. Tomlin took advantage of none of them.

So many millions of people would have loved to take care of that child,” Mr. Czajka said.

One of the many nagging issues surrounding the case has been the five-hour delay between when State Police initially searched the dumpster around 3 a.m. and when they finally found the child at about 8:30 a.m. after receiving a second call.

During the course of the investigation, DA Czajka said by phone this week that a video recording of the troopers’ dumpster searches was viewed. He said one camera was trained on the dumpster in question and when they first arrived troopers pulled their car with lights on directly up to the dumpster. They stood on the hood, reached into the dumpster and pulled out every bag, poured each bag’s contents on the ground, looked through it, yet did not find the baby.

He said he had no explanation for why they did not find the child during the first search.

The DA said with Ms. Tomlin’s criminal conviction his investigation is complete.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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