The father of a boy found dead near a Las Vegas-area trailhead last month contacted police without knowing his son was dead—an encounter that would ultimately lead to the identification of 7-year-old Liam Husted. On June 1, Liam's father informed police in San Jose, Calif., that he'd returned home on May 24 to find an empty house and a note from Liam's mother, Samantha Moreno Rodriguez, saying she was leaving him and would "try to get a house for Liam and I," per CNN. But the father chose not to file a report of parental abduction, as he didn't believe there was any danger and didn't want to get Rodriguez in trouble, Las Vegas Police Lt. Ray Spencer said at a Tuesday press conference. Three days later, a friend of Rodriguez contacted San Jose police, saying a sketch of the dead boy offered by authorities looked a lot like Liam, per KLAS.
The identification was made using DNA from the boy's pillow before Rodriguez, 35, was arrested Tuesday in Denver on a change of open murder. She was found at a hotel with a male companion, but police say he isn't suspected in Liam's murder, per KPIX. Liam's paternal grandfather tells KVVU that Liam had autism and behavioral issues, which put stress on the parents, but they were managing. "Something went horribly wrong with Sam," he adds. Authorities haven't supplied a motive for the alleged crime, but they say Rodriguez and Liam checked into a Las Vegas hotel on May 27, the day before Liam's body was found near the Mountain Springs trailhead. "We believe he was killed in Mountain Springs," Spencer said, per KPIX. Described as a stay-at-home mom, Rodriguez is to be extradited to Las Vegas, the outlet notes. (Read more child murder stories.)