A Florida jury convicted a 38-year-old vegan mother of murder Wednesday over the 2019 death of her 18-month-old son.
The jury convicted Sheila O’Leary of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.
Life in prison stands before the mother of the malnourished child. Sheila is scheduled to be sentenced on July 25, according to the News-Press. She had rejected a plea deal that offered 30 years instead of life imprisonment, WINK-TV reported.
Also charged with murder is Sheila’s 30-year-old husband, Ryan O’Leary, who faces the exact charges as her, including murder and manslaughter, The Daily Mail and the News-Press reported.
The Cape Coral couple was accused of causing the death of their son, Ezra O’Leary, through their strict adherence to the vegan diet, which eschews the consumption of animal products.
The parents fed the boy only raw fruit, vegetables, and breast milk, The New York Post reported.
At the time of his death, Ezra weighed a mere 17 pounds. According to the Post, his weight was seven pounds less than the average weight of a child his age.
The week of his death, the boy suffered from sleep issues and had not eaten anything, the Post reported. Ezra eventually succumbed to malnutrition.
Police said that Ezra began to experience breathing issues while feeding at his mother’s breast, The Daily Mail reported.
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Instead of calling 911 right away, however, the parents chose to go to sleep instead.
The newspaper reported that when the couple woke up, Ezra had passed away. An autopsy found that Ezra died due to complications arising from malnutrition.
Authorities were unable to determine if the couple had taken the boy to a doctor before his death. Sheila had given birth to the boy at home.
Special Victims Unit Chief at the State Attorney’s Office Francine Donnorummo said that Ezra’s death was “a thought-out, planned course of action” by Sheila, the News-Press reported.
“This child did not eat. He was starved to death over 18 months,” Donnorummo said.
In her closing remarks at court, the attorney said that Sheila knew what to do considering that her son had the same chronic condition that her daughter, Lilly, had previously been diagnosed with failure to thrive. She cited Sheila’s web searches, according to the newspaper, to prove the point.
“Her pride cost Ezra his life,” Donnorummo said. “It is a reckless disregard for human life.”
“Ignorance is not a defense in this case,” the attorney said.
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