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Vegan mum sentenced to life in prison after baby boy dies of malnutrition

Vegan mum sentenced to life in prison after baby boy dies of malnutrition

The mum has been convicted of first degree murder

A vegan mum has been sentenced to life in prison after her 18-month-old son died of malnutrition.

Sheila O'Leary, 38, was convicted of first degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, aggravated child abuse, child abuse, and two counts of child neglect, after authorities determined that she was responsible for the death of her baby boy Ezra.

The Florida woman had called paramedics to her home back in September 2019 when she discovered her child wasn't breathing.

Sheila and her husband Ryan told investigating officers that they had fed their family a strict diet of raw fruits and vegetables, as well as breast milk for Ezra.

Sheila O'Leary has been sentenced to life in prison.
Lee County Sheriff's Office

According to the State Attorney's office, Ezra only weighed 17lbs - the size of a seven-month-old baby - when he died, and his siblings, aged three and five, were all suffering from 'extreme neglect and child abuse'.

During the couple's first appearance in Lee County Court, assistant state attorney Francine H Donnorummo noted that the two other children in the couple's care had suffered from malnutrition, and one even had to have teeth pulled because of severe tooth decay.

It is understood that Sheila also had an 11-year-old child from a previous relationship, who was returned to her biological father during an earlier malnutrition case.

Sheila's husband Ryan is in prison awaiting trial for the same charges.
Lee County Sheriff's Office

Doctors revealed that baby Ezra had not eaten for a week by the time he had died, and an autopsy confirmed that the child had died of complications of malnutrition, including dehydration, micro steatosis of liver and slight swelling of hands, feet, and lower legs.

After her sentencing hearing was delayed four times, Sheila was given a life sentence this week in Lee County, Florida.

During her trial, Sheila's attorney John Musca argued that the parents hadn't purposefully killed their child, telling local TV station WFTX: "The child's death, while tragic, was neither purposeful nor neglectful, but accidental, and is listed on the death certificate as such."

After it was delayed four times, Sheila's sentencing took place this week.
Sipa US/Alamy Stock Photo

Her husband Ryan is in prison still awaiting trial for the same charges, and is reportedly facing two additional charges of sexual assault on a victim younger than 12 and lewd lascivious behaviour/molestation on a victim younger than 12, according to News-Press.

Speaking to the publication ahead of Sheila's sentencing, the family's neighbours in Cape Coral, Elizabeth and Robert Rioux said that they had no idea what had been going on next door.

"There were no red flags, they just lived such a secret life", they stated.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence regarding the welfare of a child, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, 8am–10pm Monday to Friday, 9am–6pm weekends. If you are a child seeking advice and support, call Childline for free on 0800 1111 

Featured Image Credit: Lee County Sheriff's Office/Björn Wylezich/Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: News, Vegan, True Crime