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Cape Coral mother gets life plus 65 years for son's death

Sheila O'Leary.jpg
Posted at 10:38 AM, Aug 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-30 10:38:42-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — A Cape Coral mother convicted of using a vegan diet that starved her 18-month-old son to death will spend the rest of her life in prison.

Sheila O'Leary was found guilty of first-degree murder back in June and was sentenced Monday.

"Anything you would like to say, ma'am, prior to sentencing," asked Judge Bruce Kyle before sealing Sheila O'leary's fate.

"No," she responded.

With a blank face, Sheila O'Leary learned her punishment for starving her toddler son Ezra O'Leary back in September 2019.

"I sentence you to life in the department of corrections," said Judge Kyle.

An additional 65 years was added for other charges dating back nearly three years when Cape Coral police pronounced the malnourished toddler dead.

MORE | See a complete timeline of events

Testimony during the June trial revealed the family follows a strict vegan diet. Investigators said the couple told them the family ate only raw fruits and vegetables, although the toddler also was fed breast milk.

The boy weighed just 17 pounds (8 kilograms) and was the size of a seven-month-old baby, a police report said.

"It was... it's a bad situation," said Sheila O'Leary's attorney, Lee Hollander about Ezra's death after the verdict. "I thought the outcome should have been different, but the jury decided what they decided."

Hollander also said that he believed there were various trial issues.

"One of the reasons is that the first charge was first-degree murder and the third charge was aggravated manslaughter of the same child," Hollander said. "Can you get convicted twice is the legal issue?".

The case is now closed, but getting to that point had many delays.

Her sentencing was delayed three times because of issues with the pre-sentence investigation—which is a recommendation for sentencing that comes from the Department of Corrections.

The State Attorney's office declined to comment because of the pending case they have against Ezra's father Ryan O'Leary.

He is facing murder charges for the death of Ezra, however, in early August he was hit with additional charges of sexual assault with a minor under the age of 12.

Two other children, aged 3 and 5 at the time, were found in similar states of malnutrition. A third child, age 11 at the time, was living out of state and had been the focus of a prior DCF abuse investigation.

Sheila O'Leary was found guilty of the following charges:

  • First-degree murder
  • Aggravated manslaughter of a child
  • child neglect
  • child abuse

She was ordered to have no contact with her children.

Her attorney plans to appeal the sentencing.