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Vegan Parents Charged For Death Of 'Extremely Malnourished' Son Fed Raw Food Diet
Two of Ryan and Sheila O'Leary's other young children were also deemed to be suffering from malnutrition.
Two Florida parents were arrested after their 18-month-old son allegedly died as a result of being nourished with only raw fruits, vegetables, and breast milk.
Sheila O’Leary, 35, and Ryan O’Leary, 30, were hit with manslaughter and child neglect charges months after the death of their infant son — who weighed only 17 pounds and was described as “extremely malnourished" at his time of death, according to a Cape Coral Police Department probable cause statement obtained by Oxygen.com.
At around 4 a.m. on Sept. 27, Sheila claimed she tried to nurse her teething son who allegedly “had not eaten for a week” and was having trouble falling asleep.
After a minute of breastfeeding, the mother allegedly told investigators that her son “began to have shallow breathing.”
Sheila decided to co-sleep with her son on a cot in the living room next to her reposed husband and three other children. But about four hours later, while Ryan was awake and preparing to go to work at one of his two jobs, he said he remembered hearing his wife “scream.”
The father allegedly told investigators that when he rushed to her side, he saw that their son was “stiff and unresponsive,” according to the report.
Ryan said he struggled to perform CPR on the infant because the boy’s mouth was “clenched.”
Authorities arrived, and he was pronounced dead at 8:01 a.m., according to the report.
Sheila allegedly told officers that her son, who was born at home, had never seen a doctor, according to the report.
She also explained that the whole family was vegan, and that all four of their kids were fed a raw food diet; that meant “nothing cooked” and is made up of mostly mangoes, rambutans, bananas, and avocados.
The kids were also allegedly home schooled and all slept together in the family’s living room.
She told authorities that six months before the infant’s death, the boy lost several pounds after becoming “very sick” from throwing up. The mother also claimed he didn't want to walk much because his feet had begun to swell “off and on for a few weeks.” Both Ryan and Sheila allegedly admitted they had been concerned about their son’s health and “should have provided medical care."
An autopsy was performed the following day and it suggested that the death was caused by “complications of malnutrition,” according to the report.
Their other three children were given medical exams and child protection authorities opened a probe.
Two other children, described in the report as “Victim 2” and “Victim 3,” were “noted to be extremely small for their age” and jaundiced, the report states. One of the children also allegedly had severe tooth decay which requires surgery.
The third child, considered to be the healthiest of the brood, had shared custody with the biological father in Virginia, according to the report, which may account for her better health.
In 2009, that child had been temporarily removed from Sheila’s custody and placed in her father’s because the child "failed to thrive."
The parents turned themselves into custody of the Cape Coral Police Department on Nov. 6 after it was determined there was probable cause that their child died of "cupable negligence," according to the report.
They have been held in Lee County Jail on a $250,000 surety bond. Both are set to appear in court on Dec. 9, jail records show.