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Mother accused of drowning son testifies

September 20, 2013
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A West Virginia woman charged with drowning her 2-year-old son in a suburban Pittsburgh hotel bathtub told a jury Thursday that she was distracted, but didn't kill the child.

Sharon Flanagan said she was lost in her own thoughts as her son, Steven, lay lifeless in the bathtub last July. Flanagan, 34, was on the witness stand for about an hour, and was the last witness in the case.

"When I realize I don't hear him playing anymore, I go in and find him face down in the tub," Flanagan testified, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I know I wasn't in there when he needed me, and I'll know that for the rest of my life."

Flanagan said she had put her son in his bathing suit and Croc shoes, gave him his firefighter's helmet and a green ball to play with. She filled the bathtub with about a foot of water and let him play while she went to the bedroom. Flanagan said she "got distracted" and then realized she didn't hear the boy playing anymore. She ran into the bathroom to find him lying face down in the water.

Detectives previously testified that Flanagan first told them she was unable to pull the boy out of the bathtub, that his foot was stuck, or that there was some force pulling him down on the night of the July 1, 2012. Steven died five days later at a Pittsburgh hospital.

On Thursday Flanagan said that she lied because she was afraid of losing custody of her son.

"I panicked. I could not move," she said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Prosecutors contend the Inwood, W.Va., woman killed her son to get back at her husband because she was unhappy that he had been granted 70 percent custody during a bitter divorce.

Prosecutors are seeking a first-degree murder conviction, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday.



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