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Mom accused of strangling 7-year-old agrees to plead guilty

A woman accused of strangling her 7-year-old son and leaving his body on a hiking trail near Las Vegas has agreed to plead guilty to murder, court records show.

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 36, signed a guilty plea agreement on Wednesday, and it was filed on Thursday in District Court, records show. She has agreed to plead guilty to a felony count of murder and a felony count of child abuse, neglect or endangerment resulting in substantial bodily harm in the death of her son, Liam Husted.

Liam’s body was found May 28, 2021, near the Mountain Springs Trailhead off the highway between Las Vegas and Pahrump. Rodriguez told police she became frustrated with Liam, who had autism spectrum disorder and minimal verbal skills, and shoved him while they were hiking, causing him to fall and hit his head, according to grand jury transcripts.

The boy started screaming “louder than she had ever heard him scream before,” and Rodriguez strangled him for 10 to 15 minutes, a detective testified to a grand jury last year.

Chief Deputy District Attorney John Giordani said Rodriguez did not formally enter the guilty plea during a court hearing on Tuesday in front of District Judge Michelle Leavitt.

Rodriguez’s defense attorney, Ryan Bashor, declined to comment on the case on Tuesday.

According to the guilty plea agreement, Rodriguez agreed to a sentence of 28 years to life in prison, although a judge will have the final say on her punishment.

Another hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 20.

Although prosecutors had contemplated seeking the death penalty against Rodriguez, a formal notice of intent to do so was never filed, court records show.

Days before Liam’s death, Rodriguez had gathered up their belongings and left their apartment in San Jose, California, in search of more affordable housing, according to the grand jury transcripts.

She ended up in Las Vegas on May 26. Liam’s father, Nicholas Husted, had notified authorities that Rodriguez left with the boy.

Police arrested Rodriguez at a hotel in Denver after fielding hundreds of tips while working to identify Liam’s body.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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