Hearing delayed for vegan mom in starvation death of son
Image via AP.

Sheila O'Leary AP
The 18-month-old boy weighed just 17 pounds and was the size of a 7-month-old baby, a police report said.

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.

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 7-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.


Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Associated Press


  • marylou

    August 8, 2022 at 9:43 pm

    This disparagement of vegan diets is inaccurate and misleading. Starving your child to death is not a “strict vegan diet”. Vegan diets are as balanced and healthy as (or healthier than some), other diets. We don’t see headlines referring to omnivore moms or junk food dads. People need healthy food options, and veganism can be a good option for many–including children. Because most people are still unfamiliar with vegan diets and their benefits, it can be helpful to go to reputable vegetarian/vegan websites for meal inspirations.

  • It's Complicated

    August 9, 2022 at 1:38 pm

    1st Degree Murder is going to be hard to make stick, because it involves proving the premeditated intent to cause death. Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child seems like a slam dunk. “Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child is committed when a caregiver causes the death of a child as a result of willful or culpably negligent neglect.”
    “Caregiver”? Check. “Willful Negligence”? Check. “Culpable Negligence”? Check. “Neglect”? Check.

  • Veganfie

    August 9, 2022 at 7:03 pm

    Veganism is the best diet on earth and vegans are the most beautiful people as well. But some vegans try to show that they are the most strict vegans and ruin their personal life. I am really sad to know the news.

Comments are closed.


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