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Death penalty ruled out against mom accused of strangling son

Prosecutors in Las Vegas said they will not pursue the death penalty against the woman accused of strangling her 7-year-old son and dumping his body.

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, also pleaded not guilty Friday during the brief virtual court hearing.

She previously told investigators that she became frustrated with Liam Husted while they were hiking off a highway between Las Vegas and Pahrump.

Liam’s body was later found May 28 near the Mountain Springs Trailhead.

During the hike, Liam, who had autism spectrum disorder and minimal verbal skills, was running and not listening, Rodriguez told police officers.

Rodriguez shoved him, and he fell and hit his head before he started screaming, Metropolitan Police Department homicide Detective Robert Ochsenhirt told a grand jury.

“She wasn’t so sure how to stop him from crying,” Ochsenhirt said. “The things she had tried in the past to calm him down weren’t working.”

She then strangled him for 10 to 15 minutes, the detective testified.

Days before Liam’s death, Rodriguez had gathered up both of their belongings and left their apartment in San Jose, California.

She drove “somewhat aimlessly” to Southern California in search of more affordable housing even though she had not worked in a couple of years, the detective said. She ended up in Las Vegas on May 26.

The boy’s father, Nicholas Husted, was at their home in California. He testified that he was preparing for an overdue breakup and a custody battle and notified authorities that Rodriguez had left with the boy.

Investigators initially referred to Liam as John “Little Zion” Doe as they worked to identify him, fielding hundreds of tips from across the country.

Homicide detectives eventually identified the boy and traced Rodriguez to a hotel in Denver, where she was arrested.

She is due back in court Sept. 3.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.

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