LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Metro Police have identified John “Little Zion” Doe as 7-year-old Liam Husted from San Jose. He was found off SR 160 near the Mountain Springs trailhead on May 28.
Metro Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said investigators are searching for the child’s mother, 35-year-old Samantha Moreno Rodriguez.
Full Metro news conference:
On Friday evening, a sergeant with the San Jose Police Department reached out to Spencer, saying they had a missing child who they believed could be the boy. Photos sent by the SJPD confirmed this.
A Metro detective flew to San Jose on Saturday morning and obtained a pillow and clothing that belonged to Liam. Lab tests performed in Las Vegas confirmed the DNA and the items belonged to that of the boy.
Liam was last seen in San Jose on May 24. According to police, a family friend of Rodriguez said she had not seen Rodriguez or Liam in over two weeks. The friend had seen media coverage of John “Little Zion” Doe and believed the composite sketch resembled Liam. Spencer says she went to San Jose Police, prompting the ensuing investigation.
Rodriguez and Liam reportedly left California on May 24 in a 2007 dark blue Dodge Caliber, license plate 6WLH211. Spencer later noted the car was packed full with belongings, including the cargo area and back seat.
The two were then in the area of Laguna Beach on May 26, followed by Victorville, California.
On May 29, just a day after Liam’s body was discovered, police say the vehicle was traveling on Interstate 70 near Grand Junction, Colorado. Rodriguez was last seen at a Denver-area hotel room on May 31, where they said she checked in alone.
Police have obtained an arrest warrant for Rodriguez. It is for open murder and calls for nationwide extradition.
Spencer urges anyone who may have recognized Rodriguez or Liam while they were in the Las Vegas valley to call Metro Homicide’s tip line at 702-828-3521. Anyone who works at a hotel or motel is asked to check their register to see if Rodriguez may have checked in from May 27-28. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 or on their website.
Police note at this time, there is nothing that indicates a prior history of child abuse within the family. Police also do not know a motive at this time.
Spencer spoke with the boy’s father on Monday prior to the news conference.
“It’s a heartbreaking conversation to have,” the lieutenant said. “This has been an emotion last 10 days for myself, all the investigators who have been working on it, and we’re just glad we’re able to get some closure for Liam and then hold the person responsible for this crime accountable.”
Spencer declined to get into specifics about the relationship between Rodriguez and the boy’s father, saying he does not know enough about the family dynamic. He did say while the father made a missing persons report on June 1, though he did not feel that his son was in danger.
When Rodriguez left with the child, the father contacted police after he did not hear from her or his son. Spencer said the father did not want to get Rodriguez in trouble and did not file charges.
Police stress the father is not a suspect, and they do not suspect any involvement on his behalf.