Two Florida parents who said they only fed their children raw fruits and vegetables have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of their toddler after the boy died of starvation in September.
Ryan Patrick O’Leary, 30, and Sheila O’Leary, 35, of Cape Coral, were indicted by a grand jury on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect. State Attorney Amira Fox announced the charges at a press conference on Wednesday.
The first-degree murder charge was a new addition to the original charges announced last month.
“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,” Fox said.
The O’Learys called police to their home on Sept. 27 after Sheila noticed her toddler was not breathing and felt cold. Authorities showed up to find the couple’s 18-month-old had starved to death. The couple’s two other children, ages 3 and 5, were also found to be “severely underweight” and had decaying teeth, according to a police affidavit filed in court. The couple also had an 11-year-old at the home.
A medical examiner ruled the 18-month-old died of extreme malnourishment.
The 18-month-old only weighed 17 pounds, according to a Cape Coral police report obtained by the Associated Press. The average weight for a child of that age is 24 pounds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The couple told police they are vegan and that their family only eats raw fruits and vegetables.
Police previously said the toddler was born at home and that the couple did not have their two middle children enrolled in school.
Fox said the neglect charges against the O’Learys are related to the other surviving children. The eldest is in the custody of her biological father and the younger children are in state custody, local station WBBH reports.
The O’Learys remain in jail and are due to be arraigned on Dec. 23.
— With files from the Associated Press