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Vegan mother jailed for life after 18-month-old son starved to death on diet of raw fruits and vegetables

Ezra O’Leary weighed just 17 pounds when he died in September 2019

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Wednesday 31 August 2022 07:23 BST
Related: Swedish parents jailed for almost starving vegan toddler to death

A vegan mother has been sentenced to life imprisonment for murder over the malnutrition death of her 18-month-old son who was fed on a diet of raw fruits and vegetables.

Sheila O’Leary, 39, was convicted by a Florida jury in June of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, child abuse, and two counts of child neglect.

Prosecutors say that her son, Ezra, was severely malnourished and weighed just 17 pounds when he died in September 2019.

O’Leary and her 33-year-old husband, Ryan O’Leary, told police that they fed their children a strict vegan diet of raw fruit and vegetables. Ezra was also fed breast milk, they stated.

Prosecutors say that in addition to Ezra, three other children, a three-year-old, a five-year-old, and an 11-year-old, also suffered from extreme neglect and child abuse.

O’Leary was convicted after three hours of deliberations by a jury in Lee County, Florida, at the end of a five-day trial.

During the trial, the jury was told by prosecutors that the Cape Coral mother “chose to disregard his cries.”

Ryan O’Leary has also been charged with the same crimes as his wife, as well as sexual assault of a victim under the age of 12, as well as lewd and lascivious behavior/molestation of a victim younger than 12.

He remains in prison and has yet to face trial.

“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,” the Office of the State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida said in a statement.

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

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