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Mother of child found dead near Las Vegas arrested

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez was arrested in Colorado on Tuesday, less than two weeks after her 7-year-old son was found dead in Mountain Springs, Las Vegas police said.

The 35-year-old woman from San Jose, California, was arrested on suspicion of murder by the FBI’s Denver Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force, the Metropolitan Police Department said. She will be booked into a Denver-area jail to await extradition to Las Vegas.

The Denver FBI office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.

Rodriguez’s arrest comes less than 24 hours after Las Vegas police released the identity of her son, 7-year-old Liam Husted. The boy’s body was found by hikers on May 28 near the Mountain Springs Trailhead, off of state Route 160 between Las Vegas and Pahrump.

Metro homicide Lt. Ray Spencer told reporters on Monday that Liam was last seen with his mother in the San Jose area on May 24. Liam’s father reported the boy missing to San Jose police on June 1 after he could not reach Rodriguez.

Spencer said the father is not considered a suspect in the case, and investigators have found he had “no involvement whatsoever.”

A family friend who saw news reports about the previously unidentified boy also contacted San Jose police on Friday, because she believed the boy looked like Liam, Spencer said. San Jose officials contacted Metro that evening.

Detectives flew to San Jose on Monday, and used Liam’s clothing and a pillow to compare DNA evidence and confirm his identity, Spencer said.

Investigators determined that Rodriguez and Liam left San Jose on May 24 and passed through Laguna Beach, California. Police placed them in Victorville, California, on May 26, two days before Liam’s body was found in the small Mountain Springs community.

His body had been in the area for about 12 hours when he was found by hikers at about 7:45 a.m. on May 28, police have said.

On Monday, Spencer said Rodriguez was last seen on May 31 checking into a hotel alone in the Denver area.

Further information about her arrest was not immediately available on Tuesday.

In the days after the boy’s body was found, police launched an extensive search to identify him. A case of mistaken identity briefly confused investigators, when a local woman thought she recognized her 8-year-old son in a police sketch released by Metro.

The woman’s son and his half-brother were quickly found safe with their father, camping without cell service in central Utah.

Metro continued to field hundreds of tips, and the FBI on Saturday launched a nationwide social media campaign searching for information on the boy’s death.

The Clark County coroner’s office confirmed Liam’s identity on Monday after Metro released his name, but the office provided no further information on his cause or manner of death.

Rodriguez was formally charged with murder on Monday, Las Vegas Justice Court records show.

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