The day before hikers found Liam Husted, 7, missing in California, dead in Mountain Springs, he and his mother were staying at a Las Vegas hotel, police said Tuesday afternoon.
“We are 100% convinced that he was killed here in Clark County,” said Lt. Ray Spencer, head of homicides for the Metropolitan Police Department. “Specifically, we believe he was killed in Mountain Springs.”
Liam’s mother Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, was arrested in Denver around 6 a.m. Tuesday on suspicion of murder by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force on Denver Rocky Mountain, Las Vegas Police said. – a day after the police announced Liam’s identity and declared her a wanted suspect. .
The 35-year-old woman from San Jose, Calif., Was held in the downtown Denver detention center awaiting extradition to Las Vegas, prison records show.
Joined by the FBI, Spencer told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that Las Vegas police and federal investigators had combed through hundreds of tips since Liam’s unidentified body was discovered in early May. 28 near the Mountain Springs Trailhead, off Route 160 between Las Vegas and Pahrump.
“It’s emotionally draining to work on a case like this,” Spencer said. “Being able to close and identify Liam was very important, and now that we are in a position to make an arrest on this matter, (it’s) extremely gratifying.”
When Liam was still referred to as John “Little Zion” Doe, the FBI offered a reward of $ 10,000 for information leading to his identification or arrest. The agency did not disclose further details of the award money on Tuesday.
“While the result is heartbreaking, there is a sense of closure that Liam Husted will no longer be referred to as John Doe,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jeremy Schwartz said Tuesday.
Liam was last seen in the San Jose, Calif., Area with his mother on May 24. Liam’s father reported the boy’s disappearance to San Jose Police on June 1 after he was unable to reach Rodriguez, Spencer said.
The father is not considered a suspect in the case, Spencer said, adding that investigators found he had “no involvement at all.”
Chronology of the case
On May 24, Liam’s father returned home to find Liam and Rodriguez’s belongings missing, Spencer said. Rodriguez had left him a voicemail message saying “I’m sorry. I had to do this.
“She also goes on to say that ‘I’m going to try to get a house for Liam and I’ and that ‘we can talk about that in the future,’” Spencer said Tuesday, citing voicemail.
The following week, Liam’s father “didn’t know what to do,” but he contacted the San Jose Police Department to document the incident on June 1, after not hearing from Rodriguez.
“The San Jose police responded to his house, and they spoke with him,” Spencer said. “The patrollers listened to this message – I also listened to the message – and there was nothing suspicious about it.”
Rodriguez’s friend who saw information about the unidentified boy previously found near Las Vegas contacted San Jose police on Friday because she believed the boy looked like Liam, Spencer said. San Jose officials contacted Metro that evening.
Metro detectives flew to San José on Saturday. They collected Liam’s clothes and a pillow to compare DNA evidence and confirm his identity, Spencer said.
Investigators have determined that Rodriguez and Liam passed through Laguna Beach, California after leaving San Jose. Police placed them in Victorville, Calif., On May 26 – two days before Liam’s body was found in the small community of Mountain Springs.
His body had been in the area for about 12 hours when hikers found him dead at around 7.45 a.m. on May 28, police said. On Monday, Spencer said Rodriguez’s last known location was in the Denver area, where he was seen checking into a hotel alone on May 31.
It is not known why she traveled to Colorado, where Spencer said she was arrested without incident on Tuesday morning.
An identity error
Within hours of the boy’s body being discovered, police launched an extensive search to identify him. A case of mistaken identity on May 29 briefly baffled investigators, after a local woman thought she recognized her 8-year-old son in a police sketch released by Metro.
The woman’s son and the boy’s half-brother were quickly found unharmed with their father that afternoon, camping without cell service in central Utah. Metro continued to seek out tips and the FBI launched a nationwide social media campaign on Saturday seeking information about the boy’s death.
“I’ll tell you what I’ve learned over the past 10 days is the number of missing children nationwide,” Spencer said Tuesday. “I have been inundated with reports of missing children from all over the United States.”
The Clark County Coroner’s Office confirmed Liam’s identity on Monday after Metro released his name. His cause and mode of death were still pending as of Tuesday morning, and Spencer declined to say how the boy died.
Rodriguez was formally charged with murder on Monday, according to Las Vegas court records.