Psychiatrists: Woman accused of drowning son, 2, in Green Tree bathtub deteriorating mentally

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A woman accused of drowning her 2-year-old in a hotel bathtub will be sent to Torrance State Hospital to determine if she is competent to stand trial.

Two psychiatrists testified this morning that the mental state of Sharon Flanagan, 24, has deteriorated since being housed in the Allegheny County Jail.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning ordered the woman to the state hospital to be evaluated for no more than 60 days.

A trial date has been set for May 20.

According to prosecutors, Ms. Flanagan was staying at the Best Western in Green Tree when she said she found her toddler, Steven Flanagan, face-down in the bathtub. She told officers she was unable to pull his 32-pound body out.

She had other people in the hotel call 911.

When paramedics responded, the boy was not breathing, although he did have a pulse.

He died a few days later at Children's Hospital of UPMC of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Robert Wettstein told the judge that he diagnosed Ms. Flanagan with borderline personality disorder and that he believed she would benefit from a stay at the state hospital for evaluation and treatment.

Dr. Wettstein said he spent about 10 hours with the woman since December. He described her as often being unfocused and having mood instability.

"Every time I see her, it's a different Sharon Flanagan," he said.

The doctor said the woman understood the charges against her but he did not know if she has the ability to assist in her defense.

Dr. Christine Martone, who heads the Allegheny County Behavior Clinic said jail staff have observed brief psychotic episodes by Ms. Flanagan.

"All I've seen at the jail is continued deterioration," she said.

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Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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