W.Va. woman gets mandatory life in boy’s drowning

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — A West Virginia woman convicted of first-degree murder in the drowning of her 2-year-old son in a Pittsburgh-area hotel bathtub has been sentenced to life in prison.


The sentence was mandatory given Sharon Flanagan’s conviction in September, so the 35-year-old woman didn’t call any witnesses or make any statements at Monday’s sentencing. But her ex-husband had plenty to say.


“I cannot fully express my joy that this horrible person who killed my son will never hurt another child,” Steven W. Flanagan told Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning.


Flanagan was convicted Sept. 20 after county prosecutors presented evidence that Sharon Flanagan drowned the couple’s son, Steven T. Flanagan, at a hotel during a trip when she allegedly had planned to visit a Pittsburgh-area water park about 200 miles from her home in Inwood, W.Va.


Deputy District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini had argued Flanagan drowned the boy to get back at her husband after he was awarded primary custody when the couple separated months before.


Sharon Flanagan’s defense attorney, Blaine Jones, tried to suggest at trial that the drowning was an accident and that the boy had been abused by his father, but Pellegrini said the abuse allegations were baseless and never resulted in charges against the boy’s father.


“We were as close as close could be. Our home was a true place of happiness,” the boy’s father told the judge. “There was no cursing, no hatred, no bitterness, no hitting and no mistreatment of any kind.”


Flanagan at first told detectives that when she realized her son wasn’t breathing she was unable to lift him out of the tub because he was stuck or held face down by some strange force during the July 2012 stay at a Best Western hotel in Green Tree. Investigators later determined Flanagan had performed several online searches in the days before the boy’s death that referenced child drowning, including queries for “common fatal toddler accidents,” “why is Casey Anthony so popular?” and “why are Americans obsessed with Casey Anthony?”


Anthony is the Orlando, Fla., woman acquitted in July 2011 of charges she killed her 2-year-old daughter after the girl’s remains were found in a trash bag. Anthony’s defense claimed the girl, instead, accidentally drowned in a family swimming pool.


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