West Virginia mom gets new attorneys, charges in toddler's Green Tree hotel drowning

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A West Virginia woman accused of drowning her toddler in a hotel bathroom has new attorneys and is facing additional charges.

Monday morning, in a hearing before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, Sharon Flanagan, 34, of Inwood said she was unhappy with her attorney, David DeFazio.

"The process has been very confusing to me," she said. "Myself, my family and friends don't believe my current attorney is representing my best interests."

Ms. Flanagan, instead, will be represented by Blaine Jones and Nicole Nino.

Mr. DeFazio told Judge Manning he did not object to withdrawing from the case and said he and Ms. Flanagan had "fundamental differences" in how to proceed with her defense.

She earlier had been sent to Torrance State Hospital for a mental health evaluation. She is back in the Allegheny County Jail.

In addition to a homicide charge, six felony wiretap charges were filed against Ms. Flanagan last week. Investigators learned she had an Olympus recorder inside her bag the day she was interviewed about her son's death and recorded six hours of conversation with detectives, according to assistant district attorney Lisa Pellegrini. They didn't find out about the recording device until this month, when they were preparing for trial.

It is illegal in Pennsylvania to record someone's voice without their permission.

Ms. Flanagan was staying with her son at the Best Western in Green Tree in July when, she told police, she found him face down in the bathtub.

Despite efforts to revive him, Steven Flanagan was pronounced dead at 1:15 p.m. July 6 at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Ms. Flanagan told Allegheny County homicide detectives she was unable to lift her 32-pound son from the bathtub; at one point she insisted "something was actually pulling him toward the bottom of the tub," police wrote in a criminal complaint. Detectives said they charged her because her explanations of the incident were inconsistent and implausible. She was the lone caregiver for the boy, and the two had been at the hotel for less than two hours before the incident.

The boy's father was at home in Inwood but traveled to Pittsburgh to be by the boy's side after the incident.

Mr. DeFazio said at the time that she worked as an adjunct professor at American Public University based in Charles Town, W.Va., and had earned a master's degree in Florida.

mobilehome - breaking - neigh_south

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. First Published May 20, 2013 4:00 AM


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