Cape Coral mom sentenced to life for starvation death of 18-month-old son

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
Sheila O'Leary
Sheila O’Leary in court on Monday, August 15, 2022. (Credit: WINK News)

The Cape Coral mother found guilty of first-degree murder after her 18-month-old son died of starvation was sentenced to life in prison on Monday.

Sheila O’Leary was found guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, child neglect, and child abuse on June 28. She had previously rejected a 30-year plea deal offered by the state.

O’Leary also got two additional 30-year sentences for aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child and five years for child abuse and neglect charges. All sentences will run concurrently.

O’Leary’s lawyer doesn’t like the verdict and doesn’t like the sentence, so he is going to appeal.

“They’re going to have to go through the record and see whether there is evidence of aggravated child abuse which was the felony part of the felony murder. You had to have that in order to convict of first-degree murder. You had to have that if you’re going to convict of first-degree murder,” said Lee Hollander, O’Leary’s Attorney.

Hollander has 30-days to file that appeal.

The judge also ordered that O’Leary have no contact with her three children.

O’Leary was initially scheduled to be sentenced in July, but the first sentencing was delayed because the pre-sentencing investigation from the Department of Corrections was not completed. Sentencing was postponed three more times on August 8, 15, and 26.

O’Leary’s attorney previously introduced a motion asking for a new trial arguing that her charges of first-degree murder and aggravated manslaughter of a child violated double jeopardy rules. Prosecutors argue that the charges do not fall within double jeopardy rules in her case.

The motion also argues that the jury was not properly informed of the penalties for a first-degree murder conviction.

A judge denied the motion for a new trial.

Sheila and Ryan O’Leary were accused of starving their 18-month-old son to death and neglecting their other three children, causing one to need surgery because her teeth were so rotten. They were ages 3, 5, and 11 years old at the time of the arrest in November 2019.

Ryan O’Leary is next to stand trial, but that doesn’t have a start date yet

Sheila O’Leary called 911 in September when she noticed her son was not breathing and felt cold, according to a police report. She tried to resuscitate the baby, but he was dead when paramedics arrived.

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