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‘I’m sorry I had to do it like this’: Father of boy found dead on Las Vegas hiking trail says he did not suspect son was in danger after mom fled with boy

Investigators say there were no signs of previous abuse, and are stumped by the mother’s motive in the alleged murder of her son

Correction appended

New details have emerged about the presumed killing of a 7-year-old boy found dead on a hiking trail near Las Vegas, while investigators and the boy’s family remain mystified about why and how his mother allegedly killed him.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, 35-year-old Samantha Moreno Rodriguez  was arrested in Denver on Tuesday, the day after authorities positively identified the boy as 7-year-old Liam Husted of San Jose, California. Hikers found the boy’s body on a trail near Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 28, and authorities shared a sketch of the child in an effort to identify him. That led a friend of Rodriguez’s to contact San Jose police, saying the boy looked like Liam and that Rodriguez had been out of contact.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Ray Spencer told the East Bay Times that Rodriguez and Liam Husted left their Costa Mesa home–where they lived with Liam’s father–on May 24, and were in Laguna Beach in southern California on May 26. On May 27, Rodriguez reportedly checked into a hotel in Las Vegas with her son. Liam’s body was found the next day, and Spencer reportedly told the news outlet that police are “100 percent confident” Liam was killed at the location where his body was found. Authorities have not yet commented on the boy’s cause of death, but have said they are convinced it was a homicide.

According to the East Bay Times, there were no previous reports of abuse at the home or evidence the boy was in danger. Rodriguez reportedly left the family home abruptly, without telling her partner and Liam’s father, Nick Husted.

Husted told the East Bay Times that he came home on May 24 to find Rodriguez, Liam, and their belongings gone, and a voice message from Rodriguez.

“I’m sorry I had to do it like this,” the message said in part. Rodriguez also said: “I’m going to try to get a house for Liam and I,” and “We can talk about this in the future,” according to the report.

Nick Husted reportedly said he was not seriously alarmed when he did not hear from Rodriguez and his son, but eventually became concerned enough to report his son, who is reportedly autistic, missing. But by the time he made the call on June 1, Liam was dead.

“There was nothing suspicious in this message that would lead the father to believe that Liam or Samantha were involved in any kind of foul play,” Lt. Spencer told the East Bay Times, appearing to defend the father’s apparent lack of urgency.

“It indicated that Samantha had basically left him and took Liam with her, and they were going somewhere else,” Spencer said.

Both law enforcement sources and family members said there were no previous incidents of mistreatment, though the parents reportedly faced challenges stemming from Liam’s autism.

“As Liam got older it was strainful for them but they managed. There was no sign of abuse at all,” Liam’s grandfather Chris Husted told East Bay Times. “Liam was an innocent child, dependent for their care and good intentions, like all people with special needs.”

Rodriguez is awaiting extradition to California. CrimeOnline will provide further updates when more information is available.

An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated the date that Liam Husted’s body was found. His remains were found on May 28, not May 21.

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