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Hearing delayed for vegan mom in starvation death of son

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Posted at 7:10 AM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 08:10:46-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — A vegan woman convicted of murder in the malnutrition death of her young son must wait a bit longer to learn her sentence.

Sheila O’Leary, 38, whose family followed a strict vegan diet, was convicted in June on six charges — first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect — in the death of Ezra O’Leary. Her sentencing was postponed on Monday to Aug. 15 in Lee County, Florida.

Her husband Ryan Patrick O’Leary faces trial on the same charges this month. 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.

“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.

The 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.

Her lawyer showed pictures of O’Leary 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?” attorney Lee 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.