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Prosecutors ponder death penalty for mom in 7-year-old son’s death

Prosecutors in Las Vegas plan to decide soon whether to seek the death penalty for the woman accused of strangling her 7-year-old son.

Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, 35, appeared in court briefly Wednesday via a videoconference, in which Deputy District Attorney John Giordani said his office would decide within the next month whether to seek the death penalty against her.

Rodriguez told investigators that she became frustrated with her son, Liam Husted, while they were hiking off the highway between Las Vegas and Pahrump, according to newly released grand jury transcripts.

His body was later found May 28 near the Mountain Springs Trailhead.

During the hike, Liam, who had autism spectrum disorder and minimal verbal skills, was running and not listening, Metropolitan Police Department homicide Detective Robert Ochsenhirt told a grand jury last week.

Rodriguez shoved him, and he fell and hit his head, before he started screaming “louder than she had ever heard him scream before,” Ochsenhirt said.

“She wasn’t so sure how to stop him from crying. The things she had tried in the past to calm him down weren’t working.”

She then strangled him for 10 to 15 minutes, the detective testified.

Rodriguez was indicted last week on a murder charge.

Days before Liam’s death, Rodriguez had gathered up their belongings and left their apartment in San Jose, California.

She drove “somewhat aimlessly” to Southern California in search of more affordable housing, the detective said. She had not worked in a couple of years.

She ended up in Las Vegas on May 26.

The boy’s father, Nicholas Husted, was at their home in California. He testified that he was preparing for an overdue breakup and a custody battle and notified authorities that Rodriguez left with the boy.

Investigators initially referred to Liam as John “Little Zion” Doe as they worked to identify him, fielding hundreds of tips from across the country.

Homicide detectives traced Rodriguez to a hotel in Denver, where she was arrested.

She is scheduled to return to court Aug. 20.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.

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