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Cape Coral mother gets life in prison in starvation death of her 18-month-old son

Sheila O'Leary
Sheila O'Leary

A Cape Coral mother will spend the rest of her life in prison in a case involving the starvation death of her 18-month-old son in 2019.

Sheila O’Leary, 38, was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to life in prison Monday on a charge of first degree murder.

O'Leary, of Cape Coral, was also sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated child abuse, 30 years in prison for aggravated manslaughter of a child and five years in prison on two counts of child neglect and one count of child abuse. All the sentences are to run concurrently.

She was also ordered to have no contact with her remaining children, ages 3, 5 and 11. The state attorney’s office declined to provide a status or location on the children.

O’Leary was found guilty following a Lee County trial in June. She and her husband and co-defendant, Ryan Patrick O’Leary, 33, were indicted by a Lee County Grand Jury on December 18, 2019.

The couple's 18-month-old son died on September 27, 2019, in Cape Coral with evidence showing the child died due to complications from severe malnutrition and dehydration.

The boy weighed 17 pounds, police reports said, while the average weight for an 18-month-old boy is 24 pounds, 1 ounce. A Cape Coral police probable-cause statement said autopsy findings determined that the young boy's death was caused by complications of malnutrition, including dehydration, and slight swelling of hands, feet and lower legs.

The O'Leary's followed a vegan diet and told police they ate only raw fruits and vegetables but supplemented the toddler's diet with breast milk.

An Aug. 22 trial call for Ryan Patrick O'Leary was cancelled and a pre-trial conference scheduled Sept. 14 after two new charges, sexual assault on a victim younger than 12 and lewd and lascivious behavior/molestation on a victim young 12, were filed against him.

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