California mom suspected in son’s death arrested after nationwide manhunt

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A California woman suspected of killing her 7-year-old special-needs son was arrested Tuesday in Denver, police said.

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, of San Jose, was taken into custody on a nationwide warrant for open murder by a task force led by the FBI’s Denver field office, Las Vegas police announced Tuesday.

Rodriguez will be booked into a local jail pending her extradition back to Las Vegas, department officials said.

Rodriguez had been being sought on a murder warrant in the slaying of 7-year-old Liam Husted after hikers stumbled upon his remains along the Mountain Springs Trailhead between Las Vegas and Pahrump, police said.

Rodriguez, who left her California home with her son on May 24, was last seen on May 31 while checking into a hotel in Denver, Las Vegas police said Monday.

Lt. Ray Spencer told reporters Rodriguez left the home with her 2007 Dodge Caliber packed full of belongings.

The boy’s father, who is not a suspect in the case, later contacted authorities on June 1, the Mercury News reported.

“The father did not feel that his son was in harm’s way,” Spencer said at a press conference. “Not trying to get the mother into trouble, he did not want to file any type of charges or anything.”

A nationwide arrest warrant for open murder was issued Monday for Rodriguez, KTNV reported.

“She saw news coverage from our case here in Las Vegas and saw the composite sketch that was pushed out to the media,” Spencer told reporters, according to CBS San Francisco.

Spencer said the pair were also spotted in Laguna Beach and Victorville in California on May 26, just two days before Liam’s body was discovered.

Police suspect the boy was the victim of a homicide and said his body had been recently placed near the trail near State Route 160 outside Las Vegas prior to being found.

It’s unclear why Rodriguez left San Jose and investigators were still working Monday to determine a motive in the slaying, Spencer said.

“There’s nothing at this point that would indicate there’s any prior abuse that we’re aware of,” Spencer told reporters. “We’re still interviewing family and friends, trying to piece all that together.”

Prior to her arrest, cops had suspected Rodriguez was traveling alone in her dark blue Dodge Caliber with a California license plate of 6WLH211.

Liam’s identity was confirmed Monday after Las Vegas police and the FBI offered a $10,000 reward last week for information leading to his identification, as well as a suspect.

A detective confirmed the remains belonged to Liam using DNA collected from a pillow.

Liam’s grandfather, meanwhile, told KTVU the family is “devastated” by the boy’s slaying.

“Liam was a happy, sweet, innocent child who adored his father,” Chris Husted said in a statement. “It is a complete tragedy … Liam was a special needs child, at a disadvantage and dependent on others’ kindness. Unfortunately, his mother took that away.”

With AP wires

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