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Vegan Mom Sentenced To Life For Starving 18-Month-Old Son To Death On Raw Food Diet

Tiny Ezra O’Leary died as a result of being fed a strict diet of raw fruits, vegetables and breast milk by his vegan mother, Sheila O'Leary, prosecutors said.

By Dorian Geiger
7 Facts About Child Abuse and Prevention

A Florida mother who forced her children to follow a strict vegan diet was sentenced to life in prison this week for the death of her 18-month-old son, who died of malnutrition nearly three years ago.

Sheila O’Leary, 38, received a life sentence in the death of her “extremely malnourished” son Ezra O’Leary on Monday. She showed little emotion at the hearing, and declined to speak prior to the judge handing down her sentence. 

O’Leary was convicted in June on a series of charges including first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, aggravated child abuse, child abuse and two counts of child neglect. Her trial had been postponed four times, according to the Associated Press. 

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

O’Leary’s husband, Ryan Patrick O’Leary, is currently in custody pending his trial on the same charges.

Ryan Sheila Oleary Pd

The couple lived on a strict vegan diet consisting purely of raw fruits, vegetables and breast milk, according to a probable cause statement previously obtained by Oxygen.com. The couple ate “nothing” that had been “cooked” and primarily consumed mangoes, rambutans (a tropical fruit similar to a lychee), bananas and avocados.

Ezra O’Leary died from complications related to “severe malnutrition and dehydration” on Sept. 27, 2019.

The toddler weighed only 17 pounds at the time of his death, according to the case’s court documents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a child that age in the 50th percentile for weight would normally weigh 26 pounds. 

Under questioning, O’Leary told investigators that the 18-month-old hadn’t eaten in a week before his death, and said the boy “began to have shallow breathing” and later became “stiff and unresponsive” prior to paramedics descending on the family’s home on the day of his death.

Prosecutors said the Cape Coral couple’s three other children — aged three, five, and 11 — were also subjected to neglect and abuse. Sheila O'Leary had a fourth child who was previously returned to her biological father following a separate malnutrition case in Virginia, the Associated Press reported, citing court records.