DENVER – A San Jose, Calif. woman wanted in connection with the murder of her 7-year-old son near Las Vegas was arrested Tuesday morning in Denver.
Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, was taken into custody Tuesday by agents from the Denver Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force led by the FBI. Law enforcement had a warrant out for her arrest after the body of her son, 7-year-old Liam Husted, was found by hikers near the Mountain Springs Trailhead, not far from Las Vegas, on May 28.
Husted and his mother apparently left San Jose on May 24 and were last seen at Laguna Beach on May 26.
Three days later, on May 29, the vehicle they were in was spotted near Grand Junction, Colorado. Law enforcement would later say the woman checked into a hotel room by herself in the Denver area.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Raymond Spencer said Moreno Rodriguez was arrested without incident around 6 a.m. Tuesday in Denver. She was with another man when she was arrested, but officials do not believe he “has any involvement whatsoever” in the case, Spencer said.
Her vehicle was sealed by the FBI to be transported back to Las Vegas for processing, and she is expected to be extradited back to Las Vegas in the coming weeks unless she fights extradition, Spencer said.
Further, he said, when Moreno Rodriguez and Husted left San Jose on May 24, Moreno Rodriguez left a message for her husband saying, “I’m sorry I had to do it like this,” and, “I’m going to try to get a house for Liam and I and we can talk about this in the future.”
Spencer said Husted’s father did not know what to do for a week and said law enforcement investigators found “nothing suspicious” in the message that was left to believe Husted would be harmed by his mother.
On June 1, the father contacted San Jose police “because he wanted to document the incident,” Spencer said. Officers again listened to the message and found “nothing suspicious,” believing that Moreno Rodriguez had left him and took Husted with her. Spencer says the father chose not to file a parental abduction report at the time because he did not want to get Moreno Rodriguez in trouble.
But on June 4, according to Spencer, a friend of Moreno Rodriguez’s noticed the sketch of the boy found on May 28, and knowing Moreno Rodriguez was also missing, she told San Jose police she believed Husted could be the boy in the sketch. That is when San Jose police contacted Las Vegas police.
They flew to San Jose, got a pillow from Husted’s bedroom and brought it back to their forensic lab. They also received information placing Moreno Rodriguez in Laguna Beach, Calif., and a hotel near Las Vegas on the 27th.
Spencer said officials believe Husted was still alive on the 27th – a day before his body was found near the Mountain Springs Trailhead.
Spencer said it was “extremely gratifying” to have an arrest in the case. He said investigators were still interviewing Moreno Rodriguez in Denver on Tuesday afternoon and that officials may have more updates in the days to come.
Investigators believe Husted and Moreno Rodriguez were alone at the time he was killed and that she stayed in a hotel on May 31, but Spencer said he would not get into specifics on how investigators believe Husted died – only that they believe he was killed in Mountain Springs.
“We should have a little bit better idea of a motive once the investigation continues,” he said.