Woman accused of killing at Green Tree hotel to be evaluated

Mental state sliding after son's death, psychiatrists testify

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

Two psychiatrists testified Wednesday that the mental state of Sharon Flanagan, 24, of Inwood, W.Va., has deteriorated since she has been 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, facedown 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.

Investigators were skeptical of Ms. Flanagan's story, saying there were inconsistencies in versions she provided.

Robert Wettstein told Judge Manning 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 has 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 had the ability to assist in her defense.

Christine Martone, who heads the Allegheny County Behavior Clinic, said jail staffers 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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