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Murdered 7-Year-Old Boy with Special Needs Was Found Naked, Sustained ‘Multiple Injuries’: Report

Mugshot of Samantha Moreno-Rodriguez

Samantha Moreno-Rodriguez

Law enforcement authorities on Tuesday revealed more details about the tragic death of 7-year-old Liam Husted, who authorities believe was murdered by his mother, 35-year-old Samantha Moreno Rodriguez. A newly released arrest warrant said that the young boy was found naked approximately eight feet off a hiking trail having sustained “multiple injuries,” several local news outlets reported. The cause of the child’s death has still not been determined by the Clark County Coroner’s Office.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, a group of hikers on the Mountain Springs Trailhead near Las Vegas found Liam’s body hidden behind a bush at approximately 7:45 a.m. on May 28. Authorities were unable to identify the remains for days, during which the boy became known as John “Little Zion” Doe. The FBI subsequently released an artist’s rendering of the boy—prepared by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children—and offered a reward of $10,000 for information leading to his name or the person responsible for his death.

According to a report from local CBS-affiliate KLAS, Liam’s father, Nicholas Husted, contacted the police on June 1 to report that Rodriguez had taken the child eight days earlier, but he said he chose not to file an abduction report because he didn’t want her to get in legal trouble. The father then gave investigators access to email accounts belonging to him and Rodriguez which showed that she had made a reservation at a Denver-area hotel where she was arrested roughly one week ago.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal on Tuesday reported that Rodriguez told one of her friends in May that Nicholas Husted was taking her and Liam on a trip to Las Vegas that was supposed to last from May 18 until May 23. Instead, Rodriguez reportedly took Liam from their home in San Jose, California on May 24. Court documents said that Rodriguez left her cell phone at the home and left Liam’s father a voicemail saying, “I’m sorry, I had to do this.” She also said she was “going to try to get a house for Liam and I” and said the two “can talk about this in the future.”

Lt. Ray Spencer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department had previously said there was “nothing suspicious” about Rodriguez’s voicemail, noting that the couple had been having relationship difficulties for approximately two years.

It wasn’t until Rodriguez’s friend—the one who Rodriguez told about going to Las Vegas—saw coverage on June 4 about “Little Zion” on television that the friend contacted the police in San Jose. Then the department began working with authorities in Las Vegas.

On June 5, detectives flew to San Jose and matched DNA obtained from “Little Zion” to samples taken from a hoodie and pillow belonging to Liam. The court documents further stated that Rodriguez and Liam both checked into a Las Vegas hotel one day before the boy’s body was found in the desert.

Liam’s grandfather said in a statement after his grandson was found dead that the boy was a “happy, sweet, innocent” special needs child.

“We are devastated. Liam was a happy, sweet, innocent child who adored his father. It is a complete tragedy,” Chris Husted told KTVU. “Liam was a special needs child, at a disadvantage and dependent on others kindness. Unfortunately his mother took that away.”

Rodriguez is scheduled to appear in court in Colorado on Thursday as officials work on having her extradited to Nevada to formally face charges for Liam’s death.

“The short-term goal is to get her back to Nevada so she can face charges,” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told the Review-Journal on Monday. “We believe there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against her for open murder, and we want to proceed against her on the charge.”

A GoFundMe started by the victim’s father has raised more than $37,000.

“Let me tell you about my son Liam Nicholas Husted,” the grieving father wrote. “This stud always had a smile on his face, and he was always ready for an adventure. He was quick and witty and knew exactly how to get what he wanted, he was funny, he had style and so much charisma. He always made his presence known and he was so handsome. Sure he could be a handful at times but he was worth every bit of it and more.”

“I always knew he was a star,” he added.

[image via Las Vegas Metro PD]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.