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Prosecutor: Mom strangled boy found dead along highway near Las Vegas

Updated June 30, 2021 - 10:08 am

The mother of a 7-year-old boy whose body was found off a Southern Nevada highway strangled him for about 15 minutes, causing his death, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, appeared via video chat in her first appearance in a Las Vegas courtroom. She is charged in the murder of her son, Liam Husted.

“This is an egregious case of filicide,” Deputy District Attorney John Giordani said. “She essentially said that she became frustrated with the child and strangled him.”

Justice of the Peace Amy Chelini assigned Rodriguez a public defender and denied her bail.

Giordani said in the Wednesday hearing that Rodriguez confessed to killing Liam, who was described as having autism spectrum disorder. Afterward, she removed his clothes and left him naked in the desert, according to the prosecutor.

Hikers found the boy’s body at Mountain Springs on May 28.

After the crime, Rodriguez traveled to Denver, where she was arrested June 8, a day after police announced Liam’s identity and declared her a wanted suspect. She waived extradition and was booked at the Clark County Detention Center this week.

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

Authorities later confirmed that the boy was Liam, whose dad had reported him missing in San Jose, California. Rodriguez and Liam had stayed at a Las Vegas hotel the day before the boy’s body was found.

Nicholas Husted told police that he arrived home May 24 to find his son, Rodriguez and their belongings missing.

Rodriguez had left Husted a voicemail saying: “I’m sorry. I had to do this.”

“I’m going to try to get a house for Liam and I” and “we can talk about this in the future,” she told Husted in the message, according to Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Ray Spencer.

Husted honored his son Friday in a memorial service just outside his hometown of San Jose.

“I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’ll never get more hugs and kisses from him,” Husted said at the service. “But it’s still hard for me to fathom how much pain he was in and how confused he was and scared.”

Rodriguez is expected back in court Aug. 3.

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

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