‘Reckless disregard for human life’: Jury finds vegan mother guilty of starving 18-month-old to death

A Florida jury has found a vegan mother guilty of starving her 18-month-old son to death after a week-long trial.

Sheila O’Leary’s child weighed only 17 pounds when he died on Sept. 27, 2019, The Fort Myers News-Press reported.

The family followed a rigid vegan diet and 38-year old O’Leary had limited toddler Ezra O’Leary’s food to only raw fruits and vegetables and breast milk.

“This child did not eat,” explained Francine Donnorummo, Special Victims Unit chief in the State Attorney’s Office. “He was starved to death over 18 months.”

The mother was convicted on several charges including child neglect, child abuse, first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse. She will face sentencing later this month.

O’Leary had previously been mandated to take parenting classes with her ex-husband by the state of Virginia’s Child Protective Services after their child “failed to thrive.”

“It was a class to educate new parents… or parents in general,” Chen said about the classes that were used as evidence in the prosecution’s case. “How to raise a healthy child.”

Chen and O’Leary’s 11-year-old child was in considerably better health according to The Daily Mail, due to the fact that she traveled between the two homes and received better nutrition at her father’s house

Donnorummo told the jury that “Ignorance is not a defense in this case.”

She was scorned on social media for the vegan-driven murder.

O’Leary had also sought out answers on Google while her toddler’s health was getting worse.

“This was a thought-out, planned course of action,” Donnorummo said. “She knew what she needed to do.”

“Her pride cost Ezra his life,” the prosecutor said. “It is a reckless disregard for human life.”

In the mother’s defense, attorney Lee Hollander held that the evidence didn’t support medical neglect.

“Does that look like a mom who wants to kill her kid?” Hollander asked the jury during closing arguments. “Just because it happened doesn’t mean she committed a crime.”

Ryan O’Leary, Ezra’s father will also stand trial on the same charges.

People horrified by the mother’s inability to properly feed her child hoped that she would not be catered to with the diet of her choosing behind bars.

At the time the criminal charges were filed against the vegan couple in Dec. 2019, State Attorney Amira Fox called the evidence “gut-wrenching.”

“The evidence and crime scene in this case are gut-wrenching,” Fox wrote on social media. “These are images as a mother and State Attorney I will not be able to forget. I commend the detectives and officers with the Cape Coral Police Department for their difficult task of dealing with the horrendous nature of this case.”

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