The sentencing of a vegan Florida mom who starved her 18-month-old son to death was delayed a second time Monday. Sheila O’Leary,
The sentencing of a vegan Florida mom who starved her 18-month-old son to death was delayed a second time Monday.
Sheila O’Leary, 38, was supposed to learn her fate on Monday after an earlier delay, but her sentencing was pushed back again to Aug. 15 in Lee County. She faces life in prison.
On June 28, O’Leary, whose family followed a strict vegan diet, was found guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect in the 2019 death of Ezra O’Leary.
The toddler weighed just 17 pounds — seven pounds below average for a child his age — when his parents noticed he had stopped breathing in Sept. 2019.
An autopsy found little Ezra died of malnutrition complications.
Ezra’s father, Ryan Patrick O’Leary, 33, faces trial on some of the same charges as his wife later this month.
Last week, additional charges of sexual assault on a victim younger than 12, and lewd and lascivious behavior on a victim younger than 12 were filed against the dad.
Sheila O’Leary was initially set to be sentenced on July 25, but that hearing was postponed because a pre-sentencing report from the state Department of Corrections and a motion for a new trial were still pending.
Lee Hollander, O’Leary’s defense attorney, told The News-Press on Monday he did not know why the sentencing has been delayed again, but said he assumes the pre-sentence report has not yet been completed.
Investigators said the couple told them the family ate only raw fruits and vegetables, although the toddler also was fed breast milk, a police report said.
“This child did not eat. He was starved to death over 18 months,” Francine Donnorummo, the special victims unit chief at the Lee County State Attorney’s Office, said during the trial.
Prosecutors accused the mother of failing to seek proper medical care for her son when she realized he was ill.
“She chose to disregard his cries,” Assistant State Attorney Sara Miller said during closing arguments. “She didn’t need a scale to see his bones. She didn’t need a scale to hear his cry.”
The O’Leary couple had two other children, ages 3 and 5, who also were malnourished, investigators said. A fourth child had been returned to her biological father during an earlier malnutrition case in Virginia, court records show.
Sheila’s lawyer showed pictures of the mother with one of her children during the trial, seeking to show she never intended to harm them.
“Does that look like a mom who wants to kill her kid?” Hollander said. “Just because it happened doesn’t mean she committed a crime.”
Hollander has requested a new trial, saying “errors” led to her conviction. If that motion is granted, she said she wants a new lawyer, telling the judge in July that her attorney didn’t defend her the way she wanted him to.
With Post wires