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Boy found dead near Las Vegas ID’d as missing California 7-year-old

Updated June 7, 2021 - 8:12 pm

Las Vegas police announced Monday that the body of a boy found May 28 near Mountain Springs has been identified as a 7-year-old reported missing from the San Jose, California, area.

Liam Husted was last seen in the San Jose area with his mother, Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, on May 24. She is considered a suspect in Liam’s killing and a warrant has been issued for her arrest, Las Vegas police said Monday.

She was last seen checking into a hotel alone in the Denver area on May 31. She is believed to be driving a blue 2007 Dodge Caliber with California license plate 6WLH211, according to police. The FBI is assisting with the case.

Police said Rodriguez and Liam left San Jose on May 24, then passed through Laguna Beach, California, and into Victorville on May 26. Liam’s body was found two days later near the Mountain Springs Trailhead off state Route 160, between Las Vegas and Pahrump. Police have said his body appeared to have been left in the area within about 12 hours of being found by a group of hikers.

The discovery prompted a multi-agency effort to identify him, with Las Vegas police fielding hundreds of tips. The FBI on Saturday began a nationwide social media campaign, seeking information on his death.

DNA evidence confirmed Liam’s identity late Sunday, Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said Monday.

Reported missing June 1

According to Las Vegas police, Liam’s father reported the boy missing to San Jose police on June 1 after he could not get hold of Rodriguez. The father is not considered a suspect in the case.

“There’s no involvement whatsoever that we suspect on his behalf,” Spencer said.

On Friday, a friend of the family who saw news reports about the previously unidentified boy found near Las Vegas also contacted San Jose police because she believed the boy looked like Liam, Spencer said. That evening, San Jose police contacted Metro and sent photographs to compare.

On Saturday, Spencer said Metro detectives flew to San Jose and retrieved clothing and a pillow that belonged to Liam, which they used to compare with DNA evidence and confirm Liam’s identity.

Police continue to search for Rodriguez. Spencer asked that area hotels check their guest logs from May 27 and May 28 so investigators can better understand her movements. Anyone with information on the case or her whereabouts may contact Metro’s homicide section at 702-828-3521 or, to remain anonymous, Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.

Mistaken identity causes confusion

The announcement of Liam’s identity Monday came about a week after Las Vegas police previously misidentified the boy found dead. A local woman who thought she recognized her 8-year-old son in a police sketch circulating online called police. After speaking with detectives and viewing autopsy photos, she signed an affidavit with the Clark County coroner’s office, confident that her son was dead.

The apparent confirmation triggered a May 29 search for the boy’s father, as well as the boy’s 11-year-old half-brother. Their father had picked up both boys the night before hikers found the previously unidentified body.

But a few hours later on May 29, Las Vegas police announced that both brothers had been found safe with their father, camping in central Utah with no cellphone service. The father later told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he feared his reputation was damaged in what proved to be a case of mistaken identity.

Spencer has said the boy, since identified as Liam, was “clearly the victim of a homicide.” But police have not said if investigators have determined how the boy was killed.

The coroner’s office on Monday also released Liam’s identity but provided no further information on his cause or manner of death.

Contact Alexis Ford at aford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexisdford on Twitter.

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