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After Several Delays, Vegan Mom Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murdering 18-Month-Old Son by ‘Severe Malnutrition and Dehydration’

 
Sheila O'Leary

Sheila O’Leary

A vegan mother convicted in Lee County, Florida, of murdering her toddler son was sentenced to life in prison for the “starvation” death of 18-month-old Ezra O’Leary.

Sheila O’Leary’s sentence was imposed in the afternoon on Monday, Aug. 29, after several postponements, prosecutors announced.

“This afternoon, Sheila O’Leary was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to life in prison for First Degree Murder. She was also sentenced to 30 years in prison for Aggravated Child Abuse and 30 years in prison for Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child,” said a press release from the Office of the State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida. “She was sentenced to 5 years in prison on two counts of Child Neglect and one count of Child Abuse.”

The prosecution also noted that O’Leary has been ordered not to contact her kids and that her sentences will run concurrently.

O’Leary and her 33-year-old husband, co-defendant Ryan Patrick O’Leary, were indicted by a Lee County Grand Jury, convened by State Attorney Amira Fox, on Dec. 18, 2019.

In addition to Ezra O’Leary, prosecutors said that three other victims, a 3-year-old, 5-year-old, and an 11-year-old child, also suffered from extreme neglect and child abuse.

The O’Learys reportedly told officers they fed their children a strict vegan diet of raw fruits and vegetables. Ezra was also fed breast milk, the couple said.

Ryan and Sheila O’Leary were both charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, child abuse, and two counts of child neglect. While Sheila O’Leary was convicted in June 2022, Ryan O’Leary was additionally charged with sexual assault of a victim under the age of 12, as well as lewd and lascivious behavior/molestation of a victim younger than 12, according to the Fort Myers News-Press. He has not yet gone to trial.

Two weeks ago, Sheila O’Leary lost her request for a new trial.

A jury of her peers in Lee County deliberated for over three hours to reach their verdict following a five-day trial in June.

Read the prosecution’s statement on the outcome of the case here:

Alberto Luperon contributed to this report.

[Images via State Attorney’s Office, Lee County Sheriff’s Office]

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Matt Naham is the editor-in-chief of Law&Crime.