Vegan Florida mom faces sentence in starvation death of son

Sheila O’Leary, 38, faces up to life in prison

Sheila and Ryan O’Leary. (Lee County Sheriff's Office)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A mother who followed a strict vegan diet in Florida faces sentencing for the malnutrition death of her 18-month-old son.

Thirty-eight-year-old Sheila O’Leary was convicted in June of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect in the death of Ezra O’Leary.

She learns her fate from a judge Monday afternoon in Lee County.

Investigators said she and her husband told them they ate only raw fruits and vegetables, although the toddler also was fed breast milk.

The couple was indicted in December 2019 for abusing and neglecting their four children. Ezra died of malnutrition and dehydration that same year.

He weighed just 17 pounds – seven pounds below average – when he died in his sleep.

Their three other children were also found to be malnourished and underweight.

The couple reportedly told police they are vegans and only eat raw fruits and vegetables, and also gave their son breast milk, however prosecutor Francine Donnorummo told the jury that Ezra’s condition was chronic, and that “ignorance is not a defense in this case.”

Detectives also said that O’Leary told them her son hadn’t eaten for a week before he died.

Sheila O’Leary is facing up to a life sentence with no chance of getting out of prison.

Ryan Patrick O’Leary goes on trial this month on the same charges.


About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.