Mom's Vegan Diet Contributed to Toddler Starving to Death: Police

A Florida woman convicted in the starvation death of her child told police that her and her husband's diet might have been a contributing factor.

A jury last week found Sheila O'Leary, 39, guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect, according to a release from the Florida State Attorney's Office.

O'Leary's conviction came after her 18-month-old died in his sleep in September of 2019 in Cape Coral. Evidence presented during the trial showed that the child's death was the result of complications from severe malnutrition and dehydration.

Sheila and Ryan O'Leary, 33, told officers that they eat a strict vegan diet, consisting of only raw fruits and vegetables, according to WPLG, which added that the couple told authorities they also fed their son breast milk.

A week prior to the child's death, he did not consume any food, Sheila O'Leary said, according to police. At the time of death, the child weighed only 17 pounds, according to WPLG, which pointed out the child weighed 7 pounds less than the average for that age.

The jury needed only three hours to convict the O'Learys, who were indicted in December of 2019.

The 18-month-old was not their only child found to have been abused. The state attorney's office said that their three daughters, ages 3, 5 and 11, all suffered from extreme neglect and child abuse.

The state attorney's office told Newsweek that Sheila O'Leary is scheduled to be sentenced on July 25. She could receive up to life in prison without the possibility of parole, WPLG reported.

"We appreciate the jury listening to all of the facts and evidence in this case. We respect their decision," the state attorney's office told Newsweek.

WPLG reported that the prosecuting attorney, Francine Donnorummo, said during the trial that "this child did not eat. He was starved to death over 18 months," according to the News-Press in Fort Myers.

Donnorummo said the abuse was "a thought-out, planned course of action" and "she knew what she needed to do," the News-Press reported.

The prosecutor also called out Sheila O'Leary for her "reckless disregard for human life."

Ryan O'Leary, who has also been charged, does not yet have a trial date.

Sheila O'Leary and Ryan O'Leary
Sheila and Ryan O'Leary are charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect. Cape Coral Police