(Meredith) -- A husband and wife in Florida have been arrested after their children were found to be extremely malnourished, resulting in the death of their 18-month-old child.
According to reports, the toddler died from severe malnutrition after his parents fed him a vegan diet.
Sheila, 35, and her husband, Ryan O’Leary, 30, have both been charged 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.
On Sept. 27, Mrs. O’Leary called 911 after she discovered her son wasn’t breathing. The paramedics who arrived at the scene found the toddler and his two siblings, ages 3 and 5, showing signs of “extreme malnourishment,” according to Cape Coral police.
The toddler weighed only 17 pounds and was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Nov. 6, the O’Leary’s turned themselves in after the medical examiner ruled the boy’s cause of death to be complications of malnutrition, including dehydration, affecting the liver and swelling of the child’s hands, feet and lower legs, according to a probable cause statement, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.
“The child’s death, while tragic, was neither purposeful nor neglectful, but accidental, and is listed on the death certificate as such,” attorney John Musca, who is representing Sheila O’Leary, said in a statement to local TV station WFTX. “For that reason, I’m optimistic the evidence will reveal no neglectful causation of death whatsoever.”
According to the probable cause statement in the case, Sheila O’Leary told police her son hadn’t eaten in a week and was only being breastfed during that time. Around 4 a.m. he was briefly nursed before exhibiting shallow breathing, but rather than act on her concern and call someone, she and the child fell asleep, she said.
When she woke up, she found the child not breathing and called 911.
Mrs. O’Leary told police that her children’s diets consist mainly of mangoes, rambutans, bananas and avocados, and the family only eats fruits and vegetables, according to the probable cause statement, reports the News-Press.
The parents told police the boy was born at home and had never seen a doctor, which Ryan O’Leary said was the parents’ preference.
The 3 and 5-year-old “were immediately removed from the home by the Department of Children and Families for their safety,” said police. When the children were found, they appeared pale and yellowish, and one had blackened teeth that required surgery to repair dental decay, said the probable cause statement.