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DA: Woman drowned son in Green Tree hotel for revenge

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Allegheny County District Attorney's Office
Sharon Flanagan, 33, was arrested July 2, 2012, and charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and recklessly endangering another person.

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By Adam Brandolph
Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Sharon Flanagan walked into a Green Tree hotel and placed her 2-year-old son Steven — sucking on a lollipop and wearing a red plastic firefighter's helmet — on the counter as she got her room key.

A little more than two hours later, Flanagan was running up and down the hotel hallway in a panic. Steven was face down in the bathtub inside her room.

“She was screaming ‘my baby, my baby,'” Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini said Tuesday at Flanagan's homicide trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning. “But she never tells anyone her baby is in the bathroom.”

Pellegrini said Flanagan, 34, of Inwood, W.Va., drowned her son on July 1, 2012, for revenge on her husband. Flanagan was divorcing her husband, Pellegrini said. She said Flanagan performed an online search of “leading cause of toddler death” and “why is Casey Anthony so popular?” on her computer weeks before her son's death.

Anthony, 27, of Orlando, Fla., was found not guilty in July 2011 of having killed her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, whose remains were found in a trash bag near the family's home.

“There is a distinction between someone drowning someone and someone accidentally drowning,” said Flanagan's attorney, Blaine Jones III. “Unfortunately, Sharon's attention was distracted. Before she could do anything, Baby Steven was unresponsive.”

Flanagan, whose hair was tied in a braid, wore a long black skirt and a white turtleneck under a teal cardigan to court. She sobbed and wiped tears from her face throughout the testimony. She rejected an offer from the District Attorney's Office to plead guilty to third-degree murder and serve 20 to 40 years in prison.

Jones said Flanagan loaded her car on July 1 and was planning to take her son to Sandcastle Waterpark. Running late, they checked into the Best Western hotel along the Parkway West about 6:17 p.m.

Flanagan began screaming and running around, frantic, at about 8:30 p.m.

A security guard checked the hotel pool but couldn't find the boy. They raced upstairs but Flanagan didn't have her room key. The guard got another key, opened the door and discovered the child in the tub.

“He was lifeless and unresponsive,” Pellegrini said. The boy died at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville.

Jones said Flanagan's running up and down the hotel hallway “was no act.”

“(Steven) was her life. He was everything to her,” Jones said.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or

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