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San Jose woman arrested in Denver after 7-year-old son’s body found on Las Vegas trail

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez
This undated photo provided by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows Samantha Moreno Rodriguez.
(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)

A San Jose woman was arrested Tuesday in Colorado less than 12 hours after she was identified by Las Vegas police as the suspect in the death of her 7-year-old son, whose body was found by hikers in Nevada more than 10 days ago.

An FBI task force arrested Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, at a hotel in eastern Denver not far from Interstate 70, Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Spencer said.

“We are all relieved that we were able to get her into custody so quickly,” said Spencer, the homicide lieutenant who has made nearly daily pleas for public help in identifying the boy since his body was found May 28.

Rodriguez will be jailed in Denver pending a court appearance and her extradition to Nevada to face a murder charge, Las Vegas police said.

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Spencer said Las Vegas police detectives were on the way to Denver to interview Rodriguez. It was not immediately known whether she had a lawyer to speak in her defense.

On Monday, the child was identified for the first time as Liam Husted, and a murder warrant was issued in Las Vegas for Rodriguez. Las Vegas police used DNA evidence collected from clothing and a pillow that belonged to Liam to confirm his identity, Spencer said.

Authorities have not disclosed how Liam died, but Spencer has said it was clear he had been killed.

Rodriguez and her son left San Jose on May 24 in a dark-blue 2007 Dodge Caliber packed full of belongings, Spencer said. Police said Liam’s father in San Jose reported the boy missing June 1, and said he was not a suspect in Liam’s death.

The mother and son were seen May 26 in Laguna Beach and Victorville, Spencer said, before they arrived in Las Vegas.

Police believe Liam’s body was dumped after dark on May 27 or early May 28, hidden behind a bush at a trailhead off State Route 160, the main highway between Las Vegas and Pahrump.

Police learned where mother and son had stayed in the Las Vegas area, but Spencer declined Tuesday to describe the place or what investigators found there.

Liam’s body remained unidentified until a family friend told San Jose police on Friday that she had not seen Rodriguez or Liam and she recognized the boy from a widely distributed rendering prepared by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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The boy’s identity was the focus of an intense public campaign that included an offer from the FBI of up to $10,000 for information. Officials have not said whether anyone is eligible for the reward.

Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.


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