Thursday, May 28, 2009
Woman accused of killing son had gone to police station hours before
By T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
One of the last people to see "Baby Angel" alive was an Albuquerque police officer.
Several hours before allegedly suffocating her son, Tiffany Toribio had walked into an Albuquerque police substation with 3-year-old Tyrus and said she didn't have anywhere to go.
PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL Tiffany Toribio, 23, was in court Wednesday on a warrant for a traffic citation. Police say Toribio had gone to a police station hours before she allegedly killed her son and tried to turn herself in for the warrant, then said she had nowhere to go.
Past 'Baby Angel' stories
Police officials say an officer working at the Coronado Mall substation tried to give her information on public and private services, but Toribio declined them and left.
She had initially gone to the police station to turn herself in on a warrant for not paying a traffic fine.
The officer ran her name through the department's database, came up with nothing and let her go, police officials said. Had the officer found the warrant, Toribio could have been arrested and taken into custody.
Toribio told investigators about this encounter when confessing to the crime after she was arrested on May 21, police said, less than a week after the boy's body was found.
According to court records, a Metropolitan Court judge had issued a warrant for Toribio in September after she failed to pay a $259 fine for not having auto insurance. Sheriff's officials said the warrant was entered into a computer database used by both departments on Sept. 24. The Sheriff's Department manages warrants for both agencies.
Albuquerque police spokesman John Walsh said he couldn't explain why the warrant was not found.
"There was nothing in our computers," he said.
Metropolitan Court spokeswoman Janet Blair said officers can also check warrants by using the court's Web site. The warrant was posted on the Web site the day after it was issued.
When the officer failed to arrest Toribio, she indicated that she had nowhere to go, Walsh said.
"We offered all of the information to her for resources in our community," Walsh said. "She refused all of that information."
Walsh said the boy appeared to be in good health, and there was no indication that the officer needed to take immediate action.
Several hours later, Toribio and her son were kicked out of their second home in a week. With no money, car, or a place to stay, Toribio went to Alvarado Park a few blocks from the police substation and suffocated her son before burying him underneath a swing, police said.
Tyrus Toribio's body was discovered two days later when children were digging in the playground. Police then asked for the public's help, urging anyone who had seen a boy matching his description to come forward. Police also released an artist's rendering.
Walsh said the officer who had come in contact with the boy and his mother at the police station did not come forward to say he had seen a boy matching that description.
Toribio's attorney, Lelia Hood, told a Metropolitan Court judge on Wednesday that her client tried to turn herself in and that police refused to arrest her. Toribio was being arraigned for not paying the traffic fine. Judge Sandra Engel imposed a six-day jail sentence, granted her time served and closed the case.
Hood said she did not blame anyone when asked afterward if the police could have prevented the boy's death.
Walsh, though, said the police department was not to blame.
"The only person responsible for this boy's death is the mother that killed the child with her hands," Walsh said.
Toribio was kicked out of her mother's home less than a week before she allegedly killed her son.
She then moved in with a group of friends at what police described as a "party house." She was kicked out of there, too. Those friends later told police they asked her to leave because Toribio was not feeding her son, bathing him or giving him clean clothes.
She went to the park hours later.
Hood said her client recently fell on bad economic times when retailer Linens 'N Things closed its doors. Hood said Toribio had worked for the retailer for about 18 months before losing her job.
Police officials have criticized Toribio for not utilizing one of the "hundreds of resources" available to women in need of assistance. They have said that she could have gone to a police station.
Mayor Martin Chávez and Police Chief Ray Schultz appeared on the city's cable access channel over the weekend talking about all of the services that had been available to Toribio.
They didn't mention at the time that Toribio had showed up at a police station with her son indicating she had nowhere to go.