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Vegan woman sentenced to life in prison after her 18-month-old child starved to death

Vegan woman sentenced to life in prison after her 18-month-old child starved to death

Ezra O’Leary weighed just eight kilograms (17lbs) at the time of his death in September 2019 after being fed just raw vegetables and fruit.

A vegan woman has been convicted of the murder of her 18-month-old son who suffered from malnutrition after only being fed raw fruits and vegetables.

Sheila O’Leary, 38, was sentenced to life in prison and convicted on six charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse, and two counts of child neglect. 

Ezra O’Leary weighed just 8kgs (17lbs) at the time of his death in September 2019 - the size of a seven-month-old baby.

Francine Donnorummo, the Special Victims Unit chief at the Lee County State Attorney’s Office, said at the trial: “This child did not eat. He was starved to death over 18 months.”

Sheila admitted to the court that she and her husband Ryan O’Leary only fed their children a strict and diet of raw fruit and vegetables.

The mother also maintained that she fed her toddler breast milk. 

Attorneys at the trial told the jury that Shelia ‘chose to disregard [Ezra’s] cries’.

Their three other children, aged three, five, and 11, also suffered from extreme neglect and child abuse, according to prosecutors. 

Ryan O’Leary is currently awaiting trial while remaining in jail on the same charges as his wife, as well as sexual assault of a victim under the age of 12, and lewd and lascivious behaviour/molestation of a victim younger than 12.

Ryan O'Leary.
Lee County Sheriff's Office

A statement from the Office of the State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida read: “This afternoon, Sheila O’Leary was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to life in prison for First Degree Murder.

"She was also sentenced to 30 years in prison for Aggravated Child Abuse and 30 years in prison for Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child.

"She was sentenced to 5 years in prison on two counts of Child Neglect and one count of Child Abuse. 

“The sentences are to be served concurrently. 

“She was also ordered to have no contact with her children. O’Leary was found guilty following a trial in June, in Lee County.”

The statement added that evidence provided in the trial proved that Ezra passed away ‘due to complications from severe malnutrition and dehydration’.

Judge Bruce Kyle presided over the proceedings and laid down the order to the mother.

The sentencing hearing had been delayed four times following O’Leary’s conviction.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence regarding the welfare of a child, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, 8am–10pm Monday to Friday, 9am–6pm weekends. If you are a child seeking advice and support, call Childline for free on 0800 1111 

Featured Image Credit: Lee County Sheriff's Office. Jiri Hera / Alamy.

Topics: US News, Vegan, Crime