Police have arrested a mother after a nearly 12-hour hunt following the discovery of her autistic son’s body dumped on a Las Vegas hiking trail.
Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, is now facing court charged with the murder of seven-year-old Liam Husted, who was found in the early hours of May 28.
She was arrested at a roadside hotel in Denver, Colorado by the Denver Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force on Tuesday morning, pending extradition to Las Vegas.
Las Vegas police Lieutenant Ray Spencer said Rodriguez was with a man when she was found but police do not believe he had ‘any involvement whatsoever in this case.’
‘We are all relieved that we were able to get her into custody so quickly,’ said Spencer, the homicide lieutenant who had made nearly daily pleas for public help to identify the child’s body after it was discovered by hikers.
Spencer would not say during a news conference on Tuesday how Husted died nor describe a motive for the killing. He referred to a coroner’s investigation and toxicology tests, which can take weeks to complete.
However he did say it was clear that the boy had been killed in the remote Mountain Springs area where he was found.
Police have arrested a mother after a nearly 12-hour hunt following the discovery of her autistic son’s body dumped on a Las Vegas hiking trail. Samantha Moreno Rodriguez (pictured), 35, is now facing court charged with the murder of seven-year-old Liam Husted, who was found in the early hours of May 28
Left: A photo provided by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department of Samantha Moreno Rodriguez who has been charged with murder over the killing of her seven-year old son Liam Husted (right) whose body was found near a highway outside Las Vegas 10 days ago
In San Jose, the boy’s grandfather told The Mercury News that Husted had lived with his mother and father, Nick Husted.
He said the boy had special education needs, attending a learning center for autistic children and had a home counselor for behavioral issues though outside help ended during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Spencer has previously described a ‘heartbreaking conversation’ with the child’s father following his identification and has confirmed that the father is not a suspect in the killing.
The homicide lieutenant had also said there was ‘nothing that would indicate any prior abuse that we’re aware of’.
The boy’s father found a letter after Rodriguez and Liam left home. It included the lines: ‘I’m sorry I had to do it like this,’ and ‘I’m going to try to get a house for Liam and I and we can talk about this in the future,’ Spencer said.
Spencer added that the father reported Husted missing on June 1, a week after finding the letter, but said he did not think his son was in danger.
Rodriguez’s arrest comes a day after police revealed Husted’s identity and stated that his mother was a suspect in this death.
This followed the release of digitally enhanced images of the boy in a bid to help identify him.
Prior to her arrest, Rodriguez was last seen on May 31 alone at a Denver-area hotel. She was last seen with Husted on May 26 – two days before he was found dead.
Spencer said the mother and son left San Jose on May 24, driving a dark blue 2007 Dodge Caliber sedan with the back seat packed full of belongings.
Pictured: Artist’s renderings created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and distributed Thursday, June 3, 2021, by the FBI and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department depict a slain boy, who was later identified as Liam Husted from San Jose
Husted’s body was found by hikers behind a bush on Mountain Springs Trailhead between Las Vegas and Pahrump, Nevada. The police official had said it was clear the boy was killed, but did not say on Monday how Husted had died
Pictured: A grab from a Fox 2 news report showing the site where the boy’s body was found, and flowers people have left for him
A family friend told San Jose police on Friday that she had not seen Rodriguez or Husted in more than a week. Pictured: The site where Husted’s body was found
A family friend told San Jose police on Friday that she had not seen Rodriguez or Husted in more than a week, and she recognized the boy from a rendering that was prepared by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and distributed by the media.
Husted and Rodriguez were seen on May 26 in Laguna Beach, California, and Victorville, California, an Interstate 15 city about 190 miles southwest of Las Vegas, Spencer said.
Husted’s body was found shortly after dawn May 28 behind a bush at a trailhead off the main highway between Las Vegas and rural Pahrump.
He became the focus of an intense public campaign that on Thursday included an offer from the FBI of up to $10,000 for information to identify him and his assailant.
Spencer did not say if anyone became eligible for the reward, and no FBI official spoke on Monday with reporters.
Police are still trying to determine where the mother and boy stayed on May 26, Spencer said.
Police believe the body was left near State Route 160 after dark May 27.
Before Husted was identified, authorities released digitally enhanced images of an unidentified boy, developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – based on images shared by the medical examiner.
They were released on Thursday, June 3, along with news of the $10,000 reward for anyone with information pointing to the boy’s identity.
The renderings painted a vivid picture of an eight-to-10-year-old Hispanic boy dubbed John ‘Little Zion’ Doe, who was later identified as Husted.
The FBI and the LVMPD both say the child was a victim of homicide. They believe his body was found within 24 hours of his death
Pictured: The mother and son left San Jose on May 24 driving a dark blue 2007 Dodge Caliber sedan with the back seat packed full of belongings
The images were created on Adobe Photoshop, and authorities said they hoped they would identify the boy sooner thanks to the stark details drawn by the artists.
Colin McNally, the supervisor for the imaging unit at the NCMEC, told Las Vegas station KVVU that the images ‘open up the eyes, sort of clean up the tissue damage, (and) change the perspective of the image so that it’s turned upright’.
‘These images are really important to make sure we’re capturing what this child would’ve looked like – it’s not just creating a face to put out with the case, but making this truly specific to this child based on the image that we have … to go along with the case information in the hopes that someone will recognize him and give the child his name back,’ McNally said.
The boy’s body was spotted at around 7.30am on May 28 by a group of hikers on Mountain Springs Trailhead, near mile marker 20 off State Route 160 between the cities of Las Vegas and Pahrump.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department and the FBI’s Las Vegas division say the child was a victim of homicide.
They believe the body was found within 24 hours of his death.
‘I was just shaken,’ said Shawna Burke, 63, who lives close to where the body was found, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. ‘Nothing ever happens up here.’
Liam’s (pictured) body was spotted at around 7.30am on May 28 by a group of hikers on Mountain Springs Trailhead, near mile marker 20 off State Route 160 between the cities of Las Vegas and Pahrump