A vegan mother convicted in Lee County, Florida, of murdering her toddler son was sentenced to life in prison for the “starvation” death of 18-month-old Ezra O’Leary.

Sheila O’Leary, 38, whose family followed a strict vegan diet, was convicted in June on six charges – first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse, and two counts of child neglect – in the death of Ezra. Her sentencing in Lee County, Florida, had previously been postponed four times.

Sheila O’Leary

Her husband, Ryan Patrick O’Leary, remains in jail while awaiting trial on the same charges. Investigators said the couple told them the family ate only raw fruits and vegetables, although the toddler also was fed breast milk. The 18-month-old boy weighed 17 pounds (8 kilograms) and was the size of a 7-month-old baby when he died in September 2019, a police report said.

Ryan Patrick O’Leary

According to the Daily Mail, the mother who starved her son wore a blank, emotionless face as her sentence was read out. Further, she told the judge that she did not wish to make any statement. Notably, her sentencing in Lee County had been previously postponed four times.

Sheila and Ryan have two other children who are also severely malnourished. The children, aged 3 and 5, had endured “extreme neglect”, said Amira Fox, the state attorney. They were primarily fed mangoes, bananas, avocados, and rambutans. As a consequence, their skin had turned yellow and they developed poor dental hygiene.

Sheila had one other child, a daughter aged 11, who was returned to her biological father in Virginia. Upon receiving a proper diet there, her health was soon considerably better than her half-siblings.

Back in 2019, just prior to the youngest son’s untimely death, his parents had noticed that he was struggling to breathe. They, however, decided to go to sleep instead of doing anything to save the child’s life. Later, when they realized that Ezra had stopped breathing, they called 911. When the paramedics arrived on the scene, they found that the toddler had already died. They also examined the other children and found them to be similarly neglected.

The couple was charged in December of the same year. No photographs of the deceased at the time of his death were released.

The prosecutors at the trial painted the picture of a scrawny, deprived child, blaming the parents for the extreme neglect. Sara Miller, the Assistant State Attorney, said, “[Sheila] chose to disregard his cries. She didn’t need a scale to see his bones. She didn’t need a scale to hear his cry.”

Watch the video report below for more details:

Sources: AWM, Daily Mail

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