Appalling | 

Irish American mum jailed for life after killing baby by force-feeding him vegan food

Ezra O'Leary weighed just 17 pounds and was the size of a seven-month-old baby when he died in September 2019

Sheila O’Leary. Photo: AP© AP

Sheila O'Leary

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

An Irish American mother has been sentenced to life in prison for killing her 18-month-old baby by force-feeding him vegan food.

Sheila O'Leary (38) was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect after she also starved her two other children.

Ezra O'Leary weighed just 17 pounds and was the size of a seven-month-old baby when he died in September 2019.

The baby's diet consisted of fruits, vegetables and breast milk.

His father Ryan Patrick O'Leary remains in jail awaiting trial.

The couple, from Cape Coral, also have two other children aged three and five who were so malnourished that their skin was yellow.

Investigators say their dental hygiene was so bad that their teeth were black and it was not clear if they had ever seen a doctor.

A fourth daughter was returned to their biological father in Virginia.

Judge Bruce Kyle ordered on Monday, that O'Leary would have no contact with her surviving children, which “was what we were expecting”, Lee Hollander, O'Leary's defense attorney, said.

He added that they intend to appeal the verdict.

following Ezra's death, the O'Learys had told police the baby had not eaten for weeks before his death.

On the night of his death the baby was struggling to breathe but rather than seek help the couple went to sleep and Ezra was dead in the morning.

Francine Donnorummo, Special Victims Unit chief at the State Attorney's Office, said his murder took place over an extended period.

"This child did not eat. He was starved to death over 18 months," Donnorummo said in court."

The couple was charged with his death in December 2019 when Ezra's cause of death was revealed.

In an earlier hearing, Assistant State Attorney Sara Miller who co-prosecuted the case, had told a 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.

Sheila O'Leary

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

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.

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.

Today's Headlines

More World Crime

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices