Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 18, 2013

Woman searched online about child drowning

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — A West Virginia woman on trial for allegedly drowning her 2-year-old son in a suburban Pittsburgh hotel bathtub performed several web searches in the week before the incident that pertained to child drowning and the Casey Anthony murder case. An Allegheny County detective testified Wednesday about the searches 34-year-old Sharon Flanagan made on her home computer in Inwood, W. Va., in the five days before her son was found lifeless in the tub.

Prosecutors believe that’s relevant in showing that she planned the boy’s drowning instead of it being an accident as she and her defense lawyers maintain. A West Virginia woman charged with drowning her 2-year-old son in a suburban Pittsburgh hotel bathtub claimed the boy became stuck in the tub, but couldn’t explain how that happened or why she was unable to pull him out safely, a homicide detective testified Wednesday. Sharon Flanagan, 34, of Inwood, W.Va., is on trial on charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment in the death of her son, Steven, last July.

Defense attorney Blaine Jones maintains the boy’s drowning was an accident, but Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini is seeking a conviction for first-degree — or premeditated — murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence. Pellegrini told jurors in opening statements Tuesday that Flanagan had used her computer to search for the topics “leading cause of toddler death” and “why is Casey Anthony so popular?” weeks before the child died, and that Flanagan killed the boy to get back at her husband during a bitter divorce. 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 swimming pool. Testimony about the web searches was expected later Wednesday. Earlier testimony came from county homicide Detective Michael Feeney, and two other investigators who responded to the Best Western hotel in Green Tree the evening of July 1, 2012.

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