Starved to death | 

Irish American mother found guilty of murder after force-feeding starving son vegan food

‘Ignorance is not a defense in this case... she made choices that killed her child’
Sheila O'Leary

Sheila O'Leary

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

An Irish American mother has been found guilty of murder after she starved her toddler son to death by force-feeding him vegan food.

Sheila O'Leary (38) of Cape Coral, Florida, was found guilty of six charges, including first-degree murder in relation to the death of her 18-month-old son Ezra on September 27, 2019.

Her husband Ryan O'Leary remains in Lee County Jail and faces a trial on the same charges.

The court heard that Ezra O'Leary weighed just 17 pounds at the time of his death, seven pounds below the average for an 18-month-old baby.

Assistant State Attorney Sara Miller co-prosecuted the case and told the court that O'Leary "chose to disregard Ezra's suffering".

"She chose to disregard his cries," Miller said.

"We’re here because their children were starving so much that the youngest starved to death."

Miller added that O'Leary "didn't need scales" to see that her son was underfed.

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

The couple also had a three-year-old and a five-year-old who were severely malnourished.

Their skin was yellow and one suffered such poor dental hygiene that their teeth were black.

Sheila O'Leary also has an 11-year-old daughter from a previous relationship and her health was considerably better than that of the other kids.

Police believe it is down to the fact the girl visited her father in a different state regularly, and was given a proper diet there.

The court heard how Sheila O'Leary fed the kids mangoes, bananas and avocadoes mostly. Ezra was also fed breast milk.

It's unclear if they ever saw a doctor. Ezra was born at home and had never been to a physician.

According to police, on the day he died, the toddler had been nursing when he started struggling to breathe.

Instead of calling for help, his parents say they went to sleep. By the time they woke up, he had stopped breathing entirely.

Francine Donnorummo, Special Victims Unit chief at the State Attorney's Office, told the court that Ezra "did not eat" and was "starved to death".

Donnorummo added that O'Leary didn't provide her child with food or healthcare.

"This was a thought-out, planned course of action," Donnorummo said, adding that O'Leary only fed her children with raw food.

"She knew what she needed to do," Donnorummo said, referencing that O'Leary's eldest daughter Lily had been diagnosed with a failure to thrive.

"Ignorance is not a defense in this case... she made choices that killed her child."

Donnorummo told the court that O'Leary informed detectives that Ezra had not eaten for a week before he died, adding that he had trouble sleeping on the night before his death.

O'Leary will return for sentencing on July 25.


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