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Florida vegan couple charged with murder after 18-month-old baby starves to death

The baby had not eaten in a week

Image source: Lee County Sheriff's Office

Fox News reported that a Florida couple who fed their children only raw fruits and vegetables have been charged with first-degree murder after their 18-month-old son allegedly died of malnutrition in September.

An empaneled grand jury charged Ryan Patrick O'Leary (30) and Sheila O'Leary (35) with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse, and two counts of child neglect, according to authorities in Cape Coral, Florida. The couple had been previously charged with lesser offenses, but authorities bumped up the charges after conducting an investigation.

An 18-month-old boy's average weight is 24 pounds, but the O'Leary's toddler weighed 17 pounds, or as much as an average 7-month-old. Sheila O'Leary allegedly told officials she fed her children mostly mangoes, bananas, avocados, and rambutans. The mother claimed the child had not eaten for a week before his death, which she attributed to teething. She also told police that the baby's feet had been swollen for a few weeks and that he was not walking as much as he regularly did.

Sheila called police on Sept. 27 when police said she said she noticed her child's body temperature had dropped and stopped breathing while breast-feeding him. Paramedics pronounced the boy dead when they arrived, Fort Myers News-Press reported.

"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. "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."

In addition to the toddler, the couple had three other children, ages 3, 5, and 11. Police observed that the 3- and 5-year-olds were extremely small for their ages and had a yellow, palish complexion. One of the children had blackened teeth, according to the Washington Examiner.

Sheila O'Leary is also reported to have told police the older children were being homeschooled; however, law enforcement did not find evidence that the minors were enrolled in a homeschool program.

The couple is being held in Lee County jail.

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