Samantha Moreno Rodriguez is accused of murdering her 7-year-old son on May 27 and dumping his body in a Nevada desert. The 35-year-old California mother was arrested after police identified the body of her son, Liam Husted, an autistic boy from Southern California.
The suspect reportedly fled from Las Vegas to Denver, Colorado, where she was arrested by law enforcement and is now awaiting extradition to Nevada. Police captured Rodriguez in a Denver hotel after a 12-hour manhunt for the mother, following identification of her son’s body.
Liam Husted’s body was found on May 28 near State Route 160 in Mountain Spring, Nevada. A hiker happened across the tragic scene and alerted police. It took over a week for law enforcement to identify the body, after using advanced imaging technology and releasing his portrait and profile to the public.
The Las Vegas Police Department, with the help of San Jose police, finally identified the victim as Liam Husted, who was reported missing by his father on June 1. The autistic boy was alive on May 27, a day after his body was found, according to Lt. Raymond Spencer. Samantha Moreno Rodriguez and her son had checked into a hotel in Las Vegas, after fleeing South California on May 24.
Rodriguez reportedly packed her dark blue 2008 Dodge Caliber hatchback before taking her son and driving to Nevada. Liam’s father said she had left a note the day she left, though he claimed he was not nervous for his son’s life.
“I’m sorry I had to do it like this,” the note read. “I’m going to try to get a house for Liam and I and we can talk about this in the future.” Liam’s father is not a suspect in the ongoing investigation. He had reported his son missing nearly a week after Rodriguez and the boy left the state but was not worried that any harm would come to the child.
Police determined that the boy found in Nevada was murdered, and facial reconstruction technology produced digital imaging of the boy. The images were distributed to news outlets on June 3.
A family friend alerted San Jose police on June 4, claiming that she hadn’t seen Liam Husted or Samantha Moreno Rodriguez in a week, but that she recognized the sketch presented during news coverage.
Police then tracked Rodriguez’s whereabout from May 29, when her car was spotted near Grand Junction Colorado. The alleged killer checked into a Denver hotel room on May 31, where she stayed until police apprehended her.
Before she was caught, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department stated that both “LVMPD and the FBI are working together to help ID the young homicide victim from May 28.” The department then explained that “the FBI is offering a $10K reward for info leading to his ID.”
According to Colin McNally, the supervisor for the imaging unit at the NCMEC, the “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.” Investigators praised the imaging technology for its assistance in quickly and accurately identifying Liam Husted.
Once Samantha Moreno Rodriguez is extradited to Las Vegas, she will be held until bail is set. Her arraignment will likely follow, though there has been no confirmation whether Rodriguez has an attorney.
According to Lt. Raymond Spencer, the father is heartbroken over the incident. There is no evidence of previous abuse or threat to the wellbeing of the child. Liam Husted was attending a center for autistic children and was being counseled at home for behavioral issues prior to Covid-19.