PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The woman charged with criminal homicide in connection with the drowning death of her young son in a hotel bathtub will stand trial.
Sharon Flanagan, of West Virginia, was in court this morning for a preliminary hearing.
Earlier this month, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of 2-year-old Steven Flanagan a homicide.
Flanagan drove to Pittsburgh from Inwood, W. Va., on July 1 and checked in at the Best Western planning to take her son, Steven, swimming the next day at Sandcastle.
Homicide detectives say she filled the bathtub with water so he could swim. She allowed him to climb on a towel rack but he fell and was injured soon afterwards he turned up face down in the water.
“All they’ve shown is at best negligence – a failure on the part of the mother to properly supervise the child,” defense attorney David Defazio said. “There’s been no evidence that this loving mother would deliberately try to drown her child.”
But during her interview with homicide detectives, Flanagan claimed she was unable to pull her son from the water. She left him lying there while she put on a back brace but still could not save him.
She then left the room screaming for help. He was finally rescued by a security guard and a hotel guest. The assistant district attorney refuted her claims of not being able to lift her child.
Video surveillance cameras show her carrying the boy into the hotel and lifting him up on the counter during check-in.
“Any admission of negligence could be used against her in a custody case in West Virginia,” Defazio says, “and instead of admitting to negligence, she contrived a story that really just got her deeper in trouble.”
County detectives charged Flanagan with homicide and the assistant district attorney said everything about her story says she harmed the child with intent.
Flanagan’s attorney says the whole case stems from a bitter ongoing divorce from her husband. He thinks homicide is too severe.
“Involuntary manslaughter, yes,” Defazio said. “I think once all the facts come out that’s where this case might belong.”
In addition to homicide charges, Flanagan faces endangering the welfare of a child and aggravated assault charges.
Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.