A Florida couple who told police they fed their children a vegan diet of only raw fruit and vegetables was charged with murder Wednesday months after their 18-month old son allegedly starved to death in their home.
Ryan Patrick O’Leary, 30, and Sheila O’Leary, 35, of Cape Coral, were indicted by a grand jury on charges of first-degree murder and other charges, State Attorney Amira Fox said.
The mother called police on Sept. 27 when police said she said she noticed her 18-month-old son had gone cold and stopped breathing. The father tried to resuscitate him, police said. Paramedics pronounced the boy dead at the home in Lee County when they arrived, Fort Myers News-Press reported.
He weighed 17 pounds, the average weight of a seven-month-old, according to the police report. Sheila O’Leary allegedly told officers the family eats a vegan diet and she fed her children raw fruits and vegetables – mostly mangoes, bananas, avocados, and rambutans.
“The evidence and crime scene, in this case, are gut-wrenching. These are images, as a mother and state attorney, I will not be able to forget,” State Attorney Amira Fox said Wednesday. “I commend the detectives and officers with the Cape Coral Police Department for their difficult task of dealing with the horrendous nature of this case.”
The parents were arrested last month after a medical examiner ruled that their child had died due to malnutrition, including dehydration. They turned themselves in on Nov. 6 and were initially charged with aggravated manslaughter. They were being held on a $250,000 bond each. They were arraigned in court on Monday. The charges against them were upgraded Wednesday.
The indictment related to three other children, ages 3, 5 and 11, who allegedly suffered from child abuse and extreme neglect at the same home, Fox said. Officers said the children appeared small for their ages and had a yellowish complexion. One child had blackened, decaying teeth, the Washington Examiner reported. Two of the children, ages 3 and 5, were placed in state custody. The 11-year-old is in the care of the child’s biological father in Virginia.
Sheila O’Leary allegedly claimed that the 18-month-old had not eaten for a week before his death – something she attributed to teething -- and he became short of breath while she tried to feed him breast milk, News-Press reported. She also allegedly told police the older children were being homeschooled, but law enforcement did not find evidence that proved they were enrolled in a homeschool program.