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Mother inspired by crime TV to strip body of 7-year-old son after strangling him to death

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Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, of San Jose, California was arrested June 8 in Denver less than 12 hours after she was identified as the suspect in the death of her 7-year-old son, whose body was found by hikers in Nevada more than 10 days prior

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, of San Jose, California was arrested June 8 in Denver less than 12 hours after she was identified as the suspect in the death of her 7-year-old son, whose body was found by hikers in Nevada more than 10 days prior

A San Jose mother accused of killing her autistic 7-year-old son told police that she stripped the clothes off his body before dumping him on a hiking trail because she thought it would make it more difficult to link her to the killing, according to court documents.

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez of San Jose, 35, told investigators she was inspired by true crime television to strip the corpse of her son, Liam Husted, according to court documents obtained by the Las Vegas Review Journal. 

 ‘Samantha indicated that she had watched television crime shows,’ Metropolitan Police Department homicide Detective Robert Ochsenhirt told a Grand Jury.

‘[She] thought that by removing his clothing it would make it more difficult to associate him with her after she left the scene.’

Liam’s body was found shortly after dawn May 28 behind a bush at a trailhead off the main highway between Las Vegas and rural Pahrump.

Twenty-four detective parsed through over 500 tips before the boy was identified and his mother was named a suspect in his killing. 

Police were led to Rodriguez by a family friend who recognized the boy when police publicized an artist’s rendition of the corpse’s face on newscasts and social media. 

Rodriguez was arrested on June 8 during an apparent breakfast date with a man she had just met in Denver. Police do not believe the man had any involvement in the case.

A coroner determined last week that the child died of strangulation. 

According to Rodriguez’s alleged confession, relayed by to jurors in court proceedings, she throttled the child on May 27 in a fit of exasperation. 

'He could say certain words,' the father told the Las Vegas Review Journal of the child's disorder. 'He didn’t string together sentences, but he could tell you, you know, he knew how to get what he wanted, you know. He could get that message across.'

Liam’s body was found shortly after dawn May 28 behind a bush at a trailhead off the main highway between Las Vegas and rural Pahrump. 

Liam Husted, 7, is seen posing for a photo among trees. His naked body was found by hikers up in Spring Mountain on May 28 the day after his San Jose mother allegedly killed him. 

 Liam, who was on the autism spectrum, was reportedly ‘not really listening to Samantha’ as she tried to coax him into her car on the morning of May 27.

She allegedly shoved the child, who hit his head on the ground and began to scream ‘louder than she had ever heard him scream before.’ 

Rodriguez strangled the child for 10 to 15 minutes until he ‘stopped crying and breathing’, detective Ochsenhirt said.

Police believe the body was left near State Route 160 after dark May 27. 

Before Liam was identified, authorities released digitally enhanced images of an unidentified boy, developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – based on images shared by the medical examiner. 

Days earlier, Rodriguez had set off with the child from their home in San Jose to Southern California in a ‘somewhat aimless’ search to find affordable housing.   

The mother and son had walked up and down the Las Vegas strip the night before the killing, where Rodriguez took the child to ‘look at the lights’ in an attempt to get him to sleep that evening. 

Liam’s father, Nicholas Husted, who was preparing to divorce Rodriguez and fight for their child’s custody, had reported his son missing on June 1 after his wife left San Jose with their child. 

 ‘I’m sorry I had to do it like this,’ she wrote to Husted in a note on May 24.   ‘I’m going to try to get a house for Liam and I and we can talk about this in the future.’

 ‘He could say certain words,’ the father told the Las Vegas Review Journal of the child’s disorder. ‘He didn’t string together sentences, but he could tell you, you know, he knew how to get what he wanted, you know. He could get that message across.’

Husted's body was found by hikers behind a bush on Mountain Springs Trailhead between Las Vegas and Pahrump, Nevada. The police official had said it was clear the boy was killed, but did not say on Monday how Husted had died

Husted’s body was found by hikers behind a bush on Mountain Springs Trailhead between Las Vegas and Pahrump, Nevada. The police official had said it was clear the boy was killed, but did not say on Monday how Husted had died

Flowers were left on the hiking trail where the young boy was found before he was identified

Flowers were left on the hiking trail where the young boy was found before he was identified

When Liam began to wail, Rodriguez was exhausted from driving and a lack of sleep from the night before. 

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

Rodriguez ‘indicated kind of physically with her hands going toward her neck’ when police asked whether she had laid hands on the child, Ochsenhirt said. When asked whether she put her hands around his neck, the detective said, she said yes.

These artist's renderings created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were distributed Thursday, June 3, 2021, by the FBI and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in an attempt to identify Liam Husted's body.

These artist’s renderings created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were distributed Thursday, June 3, 2021, by the FBI and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in an attempt to identify Liam Husted’s body. 

Police found several scrapes on the boy’s body which indicated that he was dragged up the mountain – Rodriguez deposited the corpse eight feet off a dirt road behind a bush and disposed of his clothing.   

She then set off for Denver, where she intended to start a new life, police say. 

‘There’s every indication that when she left San Jose that she was intending on starting a new life,’ Las Vegas Metro Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer told 8 News Now. 

Rodriguez was indicted for murder by a grand jury for murder on July 30; she will reappear in court on Wednesday.



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