A Florida mother who followed a raw food diet has been convicted in connection with the death of her 1-year-old son, who passed away weighing 17 pounds
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Ryan Patrick O’Leary, 30, and Sheila O’Leary, 35, were indicted in 2019 for aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse, and two counts of child neglect.
After a week-long trial, jurors in Cape Coral returned a guilty verdict Tuesday against Sheila O’Leary on all charges. She’s facing life in prison for the death of her son, Ezra, who was found deceased in the couple’s home in 2019.
Ryan O’Leary, who called 911 after Ezra stopped breathing, is currently awaiting his own trial.
“The evidence shown at trial proved the child died due to complications from severe malnutrition and dehydration,” the office of state attorney, Almira Fox, posted on Facebook.
“Three other victims, a 3-year-old boy, a 5-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl, also suffered from extreme neglect and child abuse.”
Shortly after Ezra’s death, the O’Learys told investigators their children eat a raw food diet that largely consists of mangoes, rambutans, bananas, and avocados. They added that the toddler hadn’t eaten in a week and had been getting his nutrition through breastfeeding only
The night before his death, Sheila O’Leary said her son was having difficulty breathing while breastfeeding him. The couple went to sleep instead of getting the child medical help.
Sheila O’Leary added that her son was born at home and had never seen a doctor. While she claimed her other children were homeschooled, police determined that they were not enrolled in an approved program.
The couple’s two surviving children, ages 3 and 5, were found malnourished. The third child, who is Sheila O’Leary’s daughter with a different father, reportedly appeared to be the healthiest of the three children.
Police wrote in their report that the girl stays with her biological father for two weeks every couple of months, possibly explaining her healthier appearance.
The girl was placed in her biological father’s custody in 2009 because she “failed to thrive” in Sheila O’Leary’s care.
A previous Cape Coral probable cause statement indicated that an autopsy confirmed that Ezra died from complications of malnutrition, including microsteatosis of the liver and slight edema of hands, feet, and lower legs.
“This child did not eat,” prosecutor Francine Donnorummo said during the trial. “He was starved to death over 18 months.”
“Her pride cost Ezra his life. It is a reckless disregard for human life.”
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[Featured image: Sheila and Ryan O’Leary/Lee County Sheriff’s Office]
Additional reporting by Jacquelyn Gray