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Boy With Autism Whose Body Was Found By Hikers In Nevada Died By Strangulation, Coroner Confirms

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, the mother of Liam Husted, whose body was discovered by hikers off of a highway in southern Nevada on May 28, has been charged with murder.

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez Ap

The 7-year-old California boy whose disappearance brought on a nationwide search that ended with his mother’s arrest weeks later on murder charges died of strangulation, a Nevada coroner has announced.

Liam Husted’s body was discovered by hikers off of a highway in southern Nevada on May 28, days after he disappeared from his home in San Jose, California. Liam’s death was homicide by strangulation, a representative from the Clark County Coroner confirmed by phone to Oxygen.com on Monday. Prior to the release of the coroner’s report, prosecutors said they suspected that on May 28 the boy had been strangled for roughly 15 minutes.

Liam was seen with his mother, 35-year-old Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, after the two had left their California home on May 24; they were spotted together on May 26 in Laguna Beach and Victorville, a city about 200 miles southwest of Las Vegas, the Associated Press reported. 

Nicholas Husted told police that on May 24 he arrived at his San Jose family home to find that his son and Rodriguez were gone, along with their belongings. He reportedly told detectives that his voicemail had a message from Rodriguez in which she said, “I’m sorry. I had to do this.” 

The search for Liam, who was said to have had autism spectrum disorder, quickly became the focus of a nationwide effort that included an offer from the FBI of up to $10,000 for information related to the case. 

As the investigation into Liam’s disappearance continued, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported it was discovered that he and his mother had stayed at a Las Vegas hotel on May 27 — the day before the boy’s body was discovered behind a bush near Mountain Springs Trailhead.

On June 8, Rodriguez was arrested at a Denver hotel and charged with murder. At a hearing on June 30, Clark County Deputy District Attorney John Giordani told the court that Rodriguez had confessed to killing Liam, removing his clothing, and leaving him naked in the desert. 

“This is an egregious case of filicide. She essentially said that she became frustrated with the child and strangled him,” Giordani said.

Rodriguez, who waived extradition to California, has remained in the Clark County Detention Center since her arrest, without bail. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 3.

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