Florida Parents Who Fed Baby Vegan Diet Arrested After Child Dies

vegan parents arrested after toddler dies

The vegan parents of an 18-month-old boy who weighed only 17-pounds when he died in September from malnourishment, have been arrested by Florida police on charges of manslaughter and child neglect.

Sheila O'Leary, 35, and her husband Ryan, 30, were at their Cape Coral, Florida home on Sept, 27 when Sheila said she got up at around 4 a.m. to nurse her son. However, she told police she became concerned when his breathing became shallow, but instead of calling for help, the O'Learys returned to sleep.

Later that morning, Sheila called 911 when she noticed her son was not breathing and had gone cold. Ryan said he tried to resuscitate the child, but when paramedics arrived, the boy was pronounced dead.

The parents told detectives investigating their child's death that the family only ate fruits, vegetables and raw foods, but the toddler's diet had been supplemented with breast milk.

An autopsy of the child revealed that he only weighted 17 pounds when he died, far below that of an average 18-month-toddler. The cause of death was listed as malnutrition and complications, including dehydration, microsteatosis of the liver, and swollen hands, feet and lower legs.

The parents also informed investigators that they'd never taken the child to a doctor. The child had been born at home and had no medical records.

The couple turned themselves in to the Lee County Jail on Nov. 6 on charges of manslaughter and child neglect. Bond for the couple was set at $250,000 with their arraignment set for Dec. 9.

However, according to the mother's attorney, the child didn't die of malnutrition, but rather of a illness he'd been struggling with for the past six months that made it difficult for the child to eat. The attorney for the couple said the child had begun to improve, but as he began teething, it was again difficult for the child to eat. Sheila told police that the child had only been breast fed over the last week of his life.

The O'Learys have two other children, ages 3 and 5, whom police said were also extremely malnourished, the News-Press reported. The children have been removed from the home and are currently being looked after by the Department of Children and Families' Care.

Photo: Lee County Sheriff's Office

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