Police have arrested a mother after a nearly 12-hour chase after the discovery of her autistic son’s body dumped on a hiking trail in Las Vegas.
Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, is now in court charged with the murder of seven-year-old Liam Husted, who was found in the early hours of May 28.
She was arrested Tuesday morning at a roadside hotel in Denver, Colorado by the Denver Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force, while awaiting 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 in this case.”
“We’re all relieved we were able to get her into custody so quickly,” said Spencer, the homicide lieutenant who had pleaded almost daily for public help identifying the child’s body after it was discovered by walkers.
Spencer would not say at a press conference on Tuesday how Husted died, nor describe a motive for the murder. He referred to a coroner’s investigation and toxicology tests, which could take weeks.
However, he did say it was clear that the boy had been murdered in the remote Mountain Springs area where he was found.
Police have arrested a mother after a nearly 12-hour chase after the discovery of her autistic son’s body dumped on a hiking trail in Las Vegas. Samantha Moreno Rodriguez (pictured), 35, now faces 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 charged with the murder of her seven-year-old son Liam Husted (right) whose body was found 10 days ago near a freeway outside Las Vegas
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 educational needs, attended a learning center for autistic children and had a home counselor for behavioral issues, although outside help ended amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Spencer has previously described a “heartbreaking conversation” with the child’s father after his identification and has confirmed the father is not a suspect in the murder.
The Homicide Lieutenant had also said there was “nothing that would indicate previous abuse of which we are aware.”
The boy’s father found a letter after Rodriguez and Liam left the house. It contained the lines, “I’m sorry I had to do it this way” and “I’m going to try and get Liam and me a house 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 he found the letter, but said he didn’t 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 an attempt to identify him.
Prior to her arrest, Rodriguez was last seen alone at a Denver hotel on May 31. 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 rear seats full of gear.
Pictured: Artist’s renderings created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and distributed on Thursday, June 3, 2021, by the FBI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, show a murdered boy, later identified as Liam Husted of San Jose
Husted’s body was found by hikers behind a bush on Mountain Springs Trailhead between Las Vegas and Pahrump, Nevada. The police officer had said it was clear the boy had been murdered, but did not say Monday how Husted had died
Pictured: Extract from a Fox 2 news story showing where the boy’s body was found and flowers people left for him
A family friend told San Jose police on Friday that she hadn’t seen Rodriguez or Husted in over a week. Pictured: The place where Husted’s body was found
A family friend told the San Jose Police Department on Friday that she hadn’t seen Rodriguez or Husted in over a week, and she recognized the boy from a display prepared by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and distributed by the media.
Husted and Rodriguez were seen May 26 in Laguna Beach, Calif., and Victorville, Calif., a town on Interstate 15 about 190 miles southwest of Las Vegas, Spencer said.
Husted’s body was found shortly after dawn on May 28 behind a bush near a path along the main road between Las Vegas and rural Pahrump.
He became the focus of an intense publicity campaign Thursday that included an offer from the FBI of up to $10,000 for information to identify him and his attacker.
Spencer did not say if anyone was eligible for the reward, and no FBI official spoke to reporters on Monday.
Police are still trying to determine where the mother and boy were staying on May 26, Spencer said.
Police believe the body may have been left near State Route 160 on 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 named John “Little Zion” Doe, who was later identified as Husted.
The FBI and LVMPD both say the child was a murder victim. They believe his body was found within 24 hours of his death
Pictured: The mother and son left San Jose on May 24 in a dark blue 2007 Dodge Caliber sedan with the rear seat full of gear
The images were created using 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 imaging unit supervisor at the NCMEC, told the Las Vegas station: KVVU that the images ‘open the eyes, clear up the tissue damage, (and) change the perspective of the image so that it stands upright’.
“These images are very important to make sure we capture what this child would have looked like – it’s not just creating a face to come out with the suitcase, but it really makes this specific to this child.” based on the image 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 around 7:30 a.m. May 28 by a group of hikers on Mountain Springs Trailhead, near State Route 160 milestone 20 between the cities of Las Vegas and Pahrump.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department and the Las Vegas Division of the FBI say the child was a murder victim.
They believe the body was found within 24 hours of his death.
“I was just shaken up,” said Shawna Burke, 63, who lives near where the body was found, according to the report. Las Vegas Review Journal. “Nothing ever happens here.”
Liam’s (pictured) body was spotted by a group of hikers at around 7:30 a.m. May 28 at Mountain Springs Trailhead, near Milestone 20 of State Route 160 between the cities of Las Vegas and Pahrump