A vegan mother has been sentenced to life in prison after her 18-month-old son died from “severe malnutrition and dehydration.”
Sheila O’Leary, 38, was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect, in June.
“This child did not eat. He was starved to death over 18 months,” Francine Donnorummo, the special victims unit chief at Florida’s Lee County State Attorney’s Office, said during the closing arguments at the trial, according to a report from the News Press.
The baby, Ezra, weighed just 17 pounds when he died on September 27, 2019 — roughly the weight of a seven month old baby.
O’Leary said that the family adhered to a strict raw fruit and vegetable diet, but that she supplemented his diet by breast feeding.
“According to police, on the day he died, the toddler had been nursing when he started struggling to breathe. Instead of calling for help, his parents say they went to sleep. By the time they woke up, he had stopped breathing entirely,” according to a report from the Daily Mail.
The woman’s three other children, ages 11, five, and three, were also suffering from severe child abuse and neglect. The killer mom has been ordered not to have any contact with them.
The Daily Mail reports that the three and five year old children were in such poor condition that their “skin was yellow and one suffered such poor dental hygiene that their teeth were black.”
The 11-year-old was in better shape as she spent time with her father in Virginia where she was fed a proper diet.
O’Leary’s husband, Ryan Patrick O’Leary, was also indicted by a grand jury. In addition to being charged for the death, he is also facing charges of sexual assault on a victim younger than 12 and lewd and lascivious behavior/molestation on a victim young 12. He is currently awaiting trial.
Lee Hollander, the attorney representing O’Leary, has said that they plan to appeal the sentence and ask for a new trial. He claims that the first-degree murder and aggravated manslaughter charges together are double jeopardy.