Image: Tyruss "Ty" Toribio
Albuquerque Police via AP
Tyruss "Ty" Toribio was found buried in a New Mexico playground, and police say his mother, Tiffany Toribio, killed the 3-year-old boy.
updated 5/22/2009 8:50:15 PM ET 2009-05-23T00:50:15

A single mother accused of suffocating her 3-year-old son and burying him in a playground will face life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, prosecutors said Friday.

Tiffany Toribio, 23, was charged with first-degree murder, child abuse and other counts related to the death of her son, Tyruss "Ty" Toribio, on May 13. His body was discovered two days later.

Lee Hood, a public defender representing Toribio, waived the charges in a court appearance Friday.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said no circumstances would qualify Toribio for the death penalty. She said the state's current law allows the death penalty in limited circumstances such as cases of murdering a police officer or murder for hire.

The state on July 1 did away with the death penalty for murder in most cases, where the maximum penalty is now a life sentence without possibility of parole.

The district attorney's office also was evaluating whether other people could be charged for failing to report suspected child abuse.

Video: Police make arrest Brandenburg said people have a duty to report suspected child abuse, although she acknowledged it was "a real gray area" and that no decision had been made.

Sister speaks
Albuquerque police had said Toribio was recently homeless and sleeping in the park because she had been kicked out of her mother's house and a friend's apartment for ignoring her son.

Toribio's sister said Friday that the boy was doted on by family members, who she said were devastated by his mother's alleged actions.

"The night Tyruss passed, the Tiffany we all knew and loved also passed with him," Emily Apodaca said in a prepared statement read at Calvary Chapel, where she is a member.

Apodaca described her sister as a loving mother but acknowledged that the family, which lives in Zia Pueblo, northwest of Albuquerque, had little contact with Toribio since August. Apodaca said she stopped speaking to her sister after Toribio got involved in a bad relationship.

"I don't know what happened within this year to make her feel there was no one on her side, or that there was nowhere for her to turn," Apodaca said. "Tyruss came into this world born to a lost and confused girl, but he changed her. She loved him more than life itself, and that's the sad and devastating part of this."

Apodaca said she contacted Toribio on May 7, when Toribio was living with their mother. But Toribio generally has kept her whereabouts secret, Apodaca said, making it difficult to keep informed about her nephew.

"I had no address, a phone number, nothing to go off of," Apodaca said. "She would call for money," but not from a number the family could use to call her.

A public memorial for Ty will be held Tuesday at Calvary Chapel. A private service will be held at Zia Pueblo.

Toribio remained jailed Friday on $250,000 bond. Prosecutors have until June 8 to take the case to a grand jury.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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