Nationwide search for mother of San Jose boy found dead near Las Vegas

CBS NEWS — Authorities have identified a body found near a highway outside Las Vegas ten days ago as that of a missing boy from San Jose, California. His mother is now wanted for his murder, and there’s a nationwide search for her, CBS San Francisco reports.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said Monday the body was identified as that of seven-year-old Liam Husted, who was last seen traveling by car with his mother, Samantha Moreno Rodriguez.

The boy had come to be known as John “Little Zion” Doe.

Las Vegas police worked with counterparts from San Jose over the weekend to confirm his identity, Metro police Lieutenant Raymond Spencer said at a Monday news conference.

“Over the last 10 days, we have put in a tremendous amount of resources,” said Spencer. “We had detectives working through hundreds of leads in an effort to identify the victim. … After looking at those photographs, we believed that there was a very good possibility that the missing person case that they were working in San Jose was related to our homicide investigation.”

Rodriguez left San Jose with her son on May 24, traveling first to Southern California and then Nevada, Spencer said.

“We can place them in the area of Laguna Beach, on the afternoon of the 26th of May,” Spencer said. “Later that afternoon, we know the vehicle was in the area of Victorville, California.”

A hiker found the boy’s body May 28 off State Route 160 near Mountain Springs, just west of Las Vegas. Investigators believe his body had been recently placed there and he was the victim of a homicide.

Investigators were tipped off by a family friend who hadn’t seen Rodriguez or her son for some time and saw news coverage of a boy’s body found in the desert.

Police said they sent an investigator to San Jose to collect clothing and a pillow of Liam’s, which they used to positively identify his body through DNA.

Investigators found that Rodriguez continued to travel in the same vehicle, Spencer said.

On May 29, “We discovered that the car was traveling on I-70 near Grand Junction, Colorado,” he said. “The last contact that anyone had seen of Samantha is at a Denver-area hotel room on the 31st of May, when she checked in by herself.”

A nationwide arrest warrant was issued for Rodriguez. Police are looking for her vehicle, a dark blue 2008 Dodge Caliber hatchback with California license plate 6WLH211

Police are urging anyone with additional information about Rodriguez to come forward.

Liam’s father wasn’t considered a suspect in his murder. Police said he reached out to them after he hadn’t heard from Rodriguez or Liam, adding he never thought the boy was in danger.

A woman identified as Shirley Rogers said on a Facebook page dedicated to Liam that the 7-year-old had special needs.