A Florida woman convicted in the starvation death of her child has told police that her diet and that of her husband may have been a contributing factor.
Last week a jury found Sheila O’Leary, 39, guilty of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect. children, according to a statement from the Florida State Attorney’s Office.
O’Leary’s sentencing came after her 18-month-old child died in her sleep in September 2019 in Cape Coral. Evidence presented during the trial showed that the child’s death was the result of complications related to severe malnutrition and dehydration.
Sheila and Ryan O’Leary, 33, told officers they followed a strict vegan diet of raw fruits and vegetables only, according to WPLG, which added that the couple had told authorities they were also feeding their son with breast milk.
A week before the child died, he had not consumed any food, Sheila O’Leary said, according to police. At the time of death, the child weighed just 17 pounds, according to WPLG, which pointed out that the child weighed 7 pounds less than the average for that age.
The jury needed just three hours to convict the O’Learys, who were charged in December 2019.
The 18-month-old was not their only child to be abused. The state’s attorney’s office said their three daughters, ages 3, 5 and 11, all suffered from extreme neglect and child abuse.
The prosecutor’s office said Newsweek that Sheila O’Leary should be sentenced on July 25. She could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, WPLG reported.
“We appreciate that the jury listened to all of the facts and evidence in this case. We respect their decision,” the prosecutor’s office said. Newsweek.
WPLG reported that the lawyer, Francine Donnorummo, testified during the trial that “this child did not eat. He starved to death for 18 months”, according to the News-Press in Fort Myers.
Donnorummo said the abuse was “a thoughtful and planned course of action” and “she knew what she had to do”, 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.