An Irish American mother has been found guilty of murder after feeding her 18-month-old toddler a strict raw vegan diet of only fruits and vegetables.
Sheila O'Leary, 38, of Cape Coral, Florida, was found guilty of six charges, including first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse, and two counts of child neglect 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.
Prior to deliberation at the Lee County Clerk of Court in Fort Myers, prosecutors reminded jurors that Sheila O'Leary had received counseling after one of her older children had "failed to thrive". She also had to enroll in a series of parenting classes with her ex-husband Khang Chen.
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".
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.
The toddler weighed as much as a seven-month-old baby, according to babycenter.com.
#BREAKING: Sheila O'Leary of Cape Coral is convicted of 1st degree murder in the death of her 18-month old baby. She and her husband were accused of starving the baby to death in a disturbing abuse investigation involving 4 children.
Previous coverage: https://t.co/da5ygIXovi pic.twitter.com/F5CKvIBjbb— Brenna Weick (@BrennaWeickTV) June 28, 2022
Assistant State Attorney Sara Miller co-prosecuted the case and told the court that Sheila 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 a 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."
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.