Vegan mother convicted of murder for starving 18-month-old son to death on vegan diet

  • 02/07/2022
Ryan and Sheila O'Leary.
Ryan and Sheila O'Leary. Photo credit: Lee County Sherriff's Office.

A vegan mother has been found guilty of murder after letting her young child die from malnutrition.

Florida woman Sheila O'Leary and her husband Ryan were charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect after their 18-month-old son Ezra starved to death in 2019.

This week Sheila was convicted of murder by a jury in relation to child abuse charges. She will be sentenced in July and faces life behind bars.

Local media reported that the toddler, whose diet consisted of raw fruit, vegetables and breastmilk, weighed only 7.7kg - what a seven-month-old child should weigh. The average weight for an 18-month-old is about 11kg.

He hadn't eaten for a week before his death, and Ezra's autopsy found his death was caused by malnutrition and dehydration.

The couple had two other young children who were also described as severely malnourished and extremely small for their ages. Their skin was yellow and one also had blackened teeth.

"This child did not eat. He was starved to death over 18 months," Francine Donnorummo, special victims unit chief at the State Attorney's Office, told the jury.

"She chose to disregard his cries," Assistant State Attorney Sara Miller, who co-prosecuted the case, said during closing arguments.

"She didn't need a scale to see his bones. She didn't need a scale to hear his cry."

Ryan, who has also been charged with murder, is still awaiting trial.