‘I’m sorry I had to do it like this’: Mom arrested after California boy found dead near Las Vegas-area trail

Crime

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (KLAS) – The mother accused of killing her son and leaving his body near a trail outside Las Vegas last month was arrested Tuesday morning in Denver, according to Las Vegas police.

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, of San Jose, California was taken into custody by the Denver Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force led by the FBI, KDVR reports.

Police say Rodriguez disappeared from her home in San Jose in May, leaving a message for her husband that said, “I’m sorry I had to do it like this” and “I’m going to try to get a house for Liam and I.”

On June 1, her husband called police to document what had happened, but stopped short of filing an abduction report because he didn’t think Liam was in danger, according to KDVR.

Meanwhile, investigators in Nevada were already trying to identify the remains the child’s remains, which were found May 28 by hikers. Liam was identified more than a week later when one of Rodriguez’s friends recognized a sketch of the boy.

LVMPD Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer held a joint news conference with the FBI Tuesday afternoon to provide an update on this case.

Lt. Spencer detailed the events that led up to the discovery of Liam Husted’s body near a hiking trail at Mountain Springs not far from Las Vegas.

Timeline of events:

  • May 24: Liam was last seen in San Jose
  • May 24: Rodriguez and Liam reportedly left California in a 2007 dark blue Dodge Caliber
  • May 26: The two were spotted in Laguna Beach, followed by Victorville, California
  • May 28: Liam’s body discovered by hikers in Mountain Springs area
  • May 29: Rodriguez’ vehicle was seen traveling on Interstate 70 near Grand Junction, Colorado
  • May 31: Rodriguez last seen at a Denver-area hotel room on May 31, where police said she checked in alone
  • June 1: Liam Husted’s father calls San Jose police to report Liam and Rodriguez missing
  • June 4: Family friend takes Las Vegas sketch of boy to San Jose Police Dept. and says it looks like Liam who she hasn’t seen recently
  • June 7: LVMPD alert public of search for Rodriguez; issue arrest warrant for open murder
  • June 8: Rodriguez arrested in Denver

A breakdown of the investigation timeline with full details

MAY 24: The father of Liam Husted returned to his home in San jose and noticed all of Liam’s and Samantha’s belongings were gone and discovered a note left behind by Samantha that read: “I’m sorry I had to do it like this, I’m going to try and get a house for Liam and I and we can talk about this in the future.”

“The father at this point wasn’t sure what to do and didn’t believe that Liam or Samantha were involved in any kind of foul play or that there was any harm to potentially come,” said Lt. Spencer.

MAY 27: Samantha was placed in a local Las Vegas hotel on this date, police believe Liam was still alive at this point. Prior to coming to Las Vegas, detectives were able to place Samantha in Laguna Beach and Victorville, California.

MAY 28: Liam Husted’s body is discovered by hikers on a trail near Mountain Springs outside of Las Vegas.

JUNE 1: The father decides to contact San Jose Police Department to document the incident but did not want to get Samantha in trouble and decided not to file a report to document the parental abduction.

Picture of Liam Husted, 7, and his mother, Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35

JUNE 4: A week after Liam’s body was found, San Jose Police were alerted by a family friend of Rodriguez who said she had not seen the mother or son in over two weeks.

“On June 4, a friend of the family comes to the police department and makes us aware of this sketch in Las Vegas. She thinks that sketch looks like Liam,” said a San Jose Police Department officer during a news conference on Tuesday.

Officers recalled the child’s father contacting them on June 1, and a police report was filed. What the father and police didn’t know was that Liam’s body had been found four days earlier in Nevada. It was here that San Jose authorities launch an investigation and start working with LVMPD.

SJPD reached out to LVMPD saying they had a missing child who they believed could be the boy found in Mountain Springs. Authorities say DNA from Liam’s pillow and clothing matched that of the boy found last month.

“We really want to share and extend our condolences to the father of Liam. As parents, none of us ever want to go through something like this,” the San Jose police officer said.

JUNE 7: Police held a news conference Monday to alert the public of the nationwide search to find Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35 and reveal that she was last tracked in Denver, Colorado. During the briefing, LVMPD identified her son, known as John “Little Zion” Doe, as 7-year-old Liam Husted from San Jose. His body was found by hikers on May 28 off SR 160 near the Mountain Springs trailhead, between Las Vegas and Pahrump.

JUNE 8: Rodriguez was arrested by Denver Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force led by the FBI, according to police.

She will be booked into a Denver-area jail for one count of open murder pending extradition to Las Vegas, police noted.

Police did not specify a cause of death, saying only that it was clear he was killed.

“I expressed this child had the right to be referenced by his given name and he deserved law enforcement’s commitment to the investigation, and while the outcome is heartbreaking, there is a sense of closure that Liam Husted will no longer be referred to as a John Doe.”

Jeremy Schwartz, FBI

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