Vegan mom found guilty in toddler’s malnutrition death

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A Florida mother was found guilty of killing her toddler son after prosecutors said she starved the child to death.

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Sheila O’Leary was charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and child neglect after 18-month-old Ezra died in September 2019. O’Leary and her husband, Ryan, were both indicted months after the child’s death for abusing and neglecting not only Ezra, but their three other children as well, WBBH reported.

The O’Learys told police after their son’s death that the entire family followed a strict vegan diet, limited only to raw fruits and vegetables, The Fort Myers News-Press reported, but said that the toddler was also given breast milk.

“This child did not eat. He was starved to death over 18 months,” Francine Donnorummo, special victims unit chief for the Florida State Attorney’s Office, told The Fort Myers News-Press.

The State Attorney’s Office told WBBH that three other children, ages 3, 5 and 11, were also suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration when Ezra died.

Sheila O’Leary had rejected a plea deal offer from the state that would have put her in prison for 30 years, WINK reported. The judge told her Wednesday that she will be sentenced to life.

Among the witnesses for the prosecution was O’Leary’s ex-husband, Khang Chen, who testified that when they were married, the couple had taken parenting classes after their child Lilly had been diagnosed with failure to thrive, The Fort Myers News-Press reported.

“She made choices that killed her child,” Donnorummo said in court. “Her pride cost Ezra his life. It is a reckless disregard for human life.”

O’Leary’s formal sentencing is scheduled for July 25, 2022. Ryan O’Leary’s trial for charges in Ezra’s death has not been scheduled, WFTX reported.