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Vegan couple charged in malnutrition death of 18-month-old son. He weighed as much as child less than half his age, never saw a doctor.
Image source: Cape Coral (Florida) Police

Vegan couple charged in malnutrition death of 18-month-old son. He weighed as much as child less than half his age, never saw a doctor.

Ryan and Sheila O'Leary and their children eat only raw fruits and vegetables

A vegan mother and father have been charged in the malnutrition death of their 18-month-old son who weighed as much as a child less than half his age and never saw a doctor, the News-Press reported.

What are the details?

The Cape Coral, Florida, toddler died Sept. 27 in the care of his parents, Ryan and Sheila O'Leary, the paper said, adding that he weighed 17 pounds — as much as the average 7-month-old. The News-Press said the average 18-month-old boy weighs just over 24 pounds.

The family ate only raw fruits and vegetables, the parents told police, and the toddler's diet was supplemented with breast milk, the paper said.

Autopsy findings determined the boy's death was caused by complications of malnutrition, including dehydration, microsteatosis of the liver, and slight edema of hands, feet and lower legs, the News-Press reported, citing a probable cause statement.

Hadn't eaten in a week

Sheila O'Leary told police her 18-month-old hadn't eaten in a week, was only being breast fed, and that she thought it was because he was teething, the paper said.

At 4 a.m., the boy was nursed for about a minute and then began to have shallow breathing, the News-Press reported, adding that Shelia O'Leary told police her son had never done that before, and that she should have gotten help as it worried her.

But instead the pair fell asleep, the paper said.

When Sheila O'Leary noticed her son was cold and wasn't breathing, she called 911, the News-Press reported, adding that Ryan O'Leary tried to resuscitate the boy. But he was pronounced dead after medics arrived at their home, the paper added.

More from the News-Press:

When a detective met with the O'Learys, they were standing near their minivan, which had three other children inside.

Two of those children are Ryan and Sheila O'Leary's biological children and were described as extremely small for their ages, 3 and 5, and were pale and yellowish in color, the statement says.

They both weighed under the third percentile for their ages, and one of those children also had blackened teeth indicating dental decay, which required surgery.

The third child in the minivan appeared to be the healthiest of the children, and is Sheila O'Leary's daughter with a different father who lives in Virginia.

According to the parental custody, the older child visits the biological father in Virginia every two months for a few weeks, which is likely explains her healthier appearance, police said in the statement.

In 2009, she was placed with the biological father in Virginia because she "failed to thrive" in Sheila O'Leary's care.

Never saw a doctor

Shelia O'Leary added to police that her 18-month-old boy was born at home and had never seen a doctor, the paper said. Ryan O'Leary told police that was the family's preference, the News-Press added. The boy's feet had been swollen off and on for a few weeks, and he wasn't walking as much as he used to, the mother said, according to the paper.

The children eat only raw foods — mainly mangoes, rambutans, bananas, and avocados, the paper said.

While their mother said she homes-schools the children, police determined they weren't actively enrolled in a home-school program, the News-Press reported, citing the probable cause statement.

The O'Learys turned themselves in to Cape Coral Police shortly after the boy's cause of death was determined Nov. 6, the paper said, and were arrested for negligent manslaughter, neglect of a child with great bodily harm, and neglect of a child without great bodily harm.

They both had bond set at $250,000, the News-Press said, adding that they were being held in jail and have Dec. 9 arraignments.


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