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Details emerge after parents charged in baby’s malnutrition death

By Staff | Nov 14, 2019

A Cape Coral couple has been charged with aggravated manslaughter after an autopsy showed their baby died of complications related to malnutrition.

Sheila O’Leary, 35, and Ryan O’Leary, 30, of 244 S.E. 45th St, were charged last Wednesday with one count of aggravated manslaughter of a child due to neglect, one count of child neglect causing great bodily harm, and one count of child neglect without great bodily harm.

Two other children, 3 and 5, who police say were also were extremely malnourished, were removed from the couple’s home on Sept. 27 after police responded to a call that an 18-month-old boy had stopped breathing.

The O’Learys said that the family is vegan and only eats fruits and vegetables, and that the children eat only raw foods, nothing cooked, according to the Cape Coral Police Department report.

Sheila told police that the children’s diets consist mostly of mangoes, rambutans, bananas and avocados, the arrest report states.

The two are currently being held in the Lee County Jail, both with bonds of $250,000.

Their scheduled arraignments are set for Dec. 9.

According to the report, when Lee County Emergency Medics arrived at the home just before 8 a.m., Sheila met them at the door and handed the child to paramedics.

Shortly after their arrival and examination, the child was pronounced dead at the home.

Sheila told a detective that the child had not been feeling well for the past week, had not eaten for a week, and was only being breastfed, according to the report. She and Ryan believed this was due to the child teething.

Sheila stated that the last time the child had anything to drink was about 4 a.m. that morning, and noticed the child had shallow breathing when nursing him. Sheila also told police that the child had never done that before, and that she should have called someone because she was worried.

Sheila told a detective that when she awoke to her husband getting ready for work, she noticed the child was not breathing and was cold, said the report. Ryan said he heard her scream, and tried to resuscitate the child while Sheila called 911.

The child was born at their home, and never had been to a doctor before, which was a preference of the parents, according to Sheila’s statement to police.

Sheila also told police that days prior, the child refused all beast milk and did not eat or drink for about 12 hours. She said she was worried then, but that the same evening the child began nursing again. She also said the child’s feet had been swollen off and on for a few weeks, the report stated. The mother said around six months ago the child was very sick, causing vomiting and weight loss, and that she believed the child had never fully recovered from that illness, though had begun to gain weight back until the teething began a week prior to the incident.

The report stated that the child appeared “extremely malnourished” with his feet and hands swollen. No apparent injuries to the child could be seen.

Three other children were residing in the home, with two also appearing malnourished, said the report.

One sibling, the oldest and the child of Sheila only, appeared healthier than the others, which detectives speculated could be due to the fact they visit their father in Virginia every two months for a few weeks at a time.

The other two children, according to the report, were noted to be “extremely small for their age and were a pale, yellowish color.” They were taken to the Children’s Advocacy Center for an immediate medical exam.

The exam determined that both children were underweight and undersized for their age. The third child was listed as in the healthy range. One child had “blackened teeth indicating dental decay” and will have several teeth extracted because of it, said the report.

The autopsy of the child noted no signs of trauma, said the report. The child weighed 17 pounds and the cause of death was determined to be complications of malnutrition.

The O’Learys turned themselves into CCPD headquarters on Nov. 6.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj