It’s been more than a year since 7-year-old Liam Husted was killed by his mother, and the boy’s father still can’t bring himself to remove the last traces of his child from his car.
“My window in my truck still has its tiny fingerprints behind its seat. My pain is too bad to wash it away,” Nicholas Husted said Thursday during a sentencing hearing for the boy’s mother, Samantha Moreno Rodriguez. , 36 years.
After Husted’s emotional statement, District Judge Michelle Leavitt sentenced Rodriguez to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 28 years.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty in September to counts of murder and child abuse, neglect or endangerment causing substantial bodily harm in his son’s death. She accepted the sentence given by Leavitt on Thursday as part of the plea deal.
Liam’s abandoned body was found on May 28, 2021, near the Mountain Springs Trailhead off the Las Vegas-Pahrump freeway. He had been left naked with no other evidence pointing to his identity. Officials initially called him John “Little Zion” Doe while investigators sent hundreds of councils from across the country to identify him.
After her arrest, Rodriguez told police that while on a hike, she became frustrated with her son, who has autism spectrum disorder and minimal verbal skills. He wasn’t listening to Rodriguez, and she pushed him, causing him to fall and hit his head, according to grand jury transcripts.
The boy began screaming “louder than she had ever heard him scream before,” a detective told a grand jury last year. Rodriguez choked him for 10-15 minutes before he stopped crying.
Husted told police that Rodriguez took Liam and left their apartment in San Jose, California days before the boy died. She drove “somewhat aimlessly” around Southern California in search of more affordable housing until she ended up in Las Vegas on May 26, according to grand jury transcripts.
Police later tracked Rodriguez to a hotel in Denver, where she was arrested less than two weeks after Liam’s body was discovered.
During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Husted said his son’s death “didn’t have to happen.” He said Rodriguez’s actions were “negligent and self-centered.”
“Why didn’t she call me for help?” he asked, reading a written statement. “How could she just strangle him and leave his body naked and lifeless in the desert? These thoughts will forever stay in my head.
Husted declined to comment after the hearing.
Rodriguez turned away from Husted as he addressed the judge. When Leavitt asked her if she wanted to make a statement, she shook her head.
Ryan Bashor, Rodriguez’s public defender, said the woman took responsibility for her actions and had “a lot of self-loathing.”
“It’s an extremely tragic situation,” he told the hearing.
Husted told the judge he was still grieving the loss of a future he could have had with his only child, including the chance to see Liam grow up and have children of his own.
At a vigil shortly after Liam’s death, Husted said his son was brilliant and always kept him on his toes. He learned to swim when he was 2 years old and enjoyed helping his dad cook and cook by cracking eggs and chopping vegetables.
The name “Liam” means “willing and determined warrior and guardian,” Husted told the judge on Thursday.
“I believe Liam is all of those things,” Husted said. “He was strong and determined to fight until his last breath.”