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California Mother Accused Of Strangling Autistic Son And Dumping His Body In Nevada May Face Death Penalty

Detective Robert Ochsenhirt testified that Samantha Moreno Rodriguez confessed in interviews with police to killing her son, Liam, while they were hiking along the trail on May 28.

By Megan Carpentier
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A California woman facing charges in Nevada that she killed her 7-year-old son and dumped his naked body in the desert outside of Las Vegas may face the death penalty at trial, prosecutors revealed this week.

In a court hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors said that the office's death penalty review committee will look into the case of Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, to determine whether the mother of Liam Husted will face the death penalty, according to KLAS-8 in Las Vegas.

Rodriguez had been scheduled to be arraigned but instead appeared only briefly via videoconference after her attorneys requested a delay in the proceedings. However, she heard that prosecutors would make a final determination on her eligibility for the death penalty within the next month, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Transcripts of the grand jury proceedings released after Rodriguez's indictment on Friday indicate that she told investigators both why and how she killed her son, as well as why she left the body of her son naked near the Mountain Springs Trailhead, about 25 miles from the Las Vegas Strip.

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez Ap

According to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department homicide Detective Robert Ochsenhirt, Rodriguez confessed in interviews with police to killing Liam while they were hiking along the trail on May 28. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Ochsenhirt told grand jurors that a tired Rodriguez, having walked the Las Vegas Strip with Liam the night prior, had found her son particularly unmanageable that morning on the trail and became frustrated by his unwillingness or inability to follow her directions.

She then allegedly shoved the boy, who fell along the trail, hit his head and began to scream in apparent distress "louder than she had ever heard him scream before," Ochsenhirt told the grand jury.

After her attempts to calm her child failed, Rodriguez reportedly pantomimed in response to investigators' questions that she put her hands around her son's throat to stop his screaming. He said Rodriguez confirmed to police that she strangled her son for around 15 minutes before he first stopped screaming; he soon stopped breathing.

Ochsenhirt testified that Rodriguez had also explained why she then stripped her son and left only his naked body to be found.

"Samantha indicated that she had watched television crime shows and thought that, by removing his clothing, it would make it more difficult to associate him with her after she left the scene," he told the court. 

Liam's naked body was discovered around 7:30 a.m. on May 28 by hikers near the Mountain Springs Trailhead, according to the Las Vegas Journal-Review accounts at the time. Investigators dubbed the initially unknown child "Little Zion" and only identified him as Liam Husted on June 7.

A warrant was issued for Rodriguez's arrest at that time; she was arrested in Denver on June 8 and eventually extradited to Nevada.

Rodriguez is next due in court on Aug. 20.