A VEGAN mother was found guilty of starving her toddler to death over a period of 18 months by feeding him only raw vegetables and fruit.
Sheila O’Leary, 38, was convicted on charges including first-degree murder and child abuse in the 2019 death of her 18-month-old son.
Closing arguments in O’Leary’s trial began early Tuesday and jurors began deliberating shortly after noon.
Francine Donnorummo, Special Victims Unit Chief at the Florida State Attorney’s Office, said that O’Leary failed to provide her son Ezra with proper food and health care.
“She made choices that killed her child,” said Donnorummo.
“Her pride cost Ezra his life. It is a reckless disregard for human life.”
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Lee Hollander, O’Leary’s defense attorney, showed jurors multiple photos of O’Leary with her son.
“Does that look like a mom who wants to kill her kid?” he asked.
“Just because it happened doesn’t mean she committed a crime.”
While the state was reportedly pleased with the verdict, Hollander said it was a disappointing outcome.
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“Thought we made an argument. But then the jury was out three and a half hours so they weren’t rushed to judgment,” Hollander said.
O’Leary is scheduled to be sentenced in July.
The boy’s father, Ryan Patrick O’Leary, 33, was indicted on similar charges and is awaiting trial.
The couple has remained in Lee County Jail since their arrest.
At the time of his death in September 2019, baby Ezra weighed just 17 pounds. His parents noticed he wasn’t breathing and told officers that the family followed a strict vegan diet, only eating raw fruits and vegetables.
Sheila O’Leary said that Ezra was also fed breast milk, however, an autopsy determined the boy’s cause of death was from complications related to malnutrition.
State Attorney Amira Fox said the couple also abused and neglected their three other children, who were ages three, five, and 11 at the time of Ezra’s death.
She said: “The evidence and crime scene, in this case, are gut-wrenching.
“These are images as a mother and State Attorney I will not be able to forget.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should take a “whole diet approach” and eat a mix of vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat dairy, and quality protein sources.
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However, if planned correctly, a vegan diet can be suitable for children if they are given supplemental nutrients.
The O’Learys were charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse, and two counts of child neglect.