What to Know
- The 8-year-old boy who died after his father allegedly forced him to sleep in a freezing garage on Long Island will be laid to rest on Thursday
- Meanwhile, the Nassau County legislature says it will hold a public hearing on Social Services handling of the case
- Advocates on Wednesday protested outside the Nassau County courthouse, saying that the broken court system failed the boy
It was a heartbreaking Thursday morning for the mother and loved ones as they gathered to say their final goodbyes to Thomas Valva -- the 8-year-old boy who died after his father allegedly forced him to sleep in a freezing garage on Long Island.
His mother arrived to the little boy's funeral service at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church in Melville carrying her young child as pallbearers brought into the church the casket that carried Thomas.
Mourners outside the church told News 4 how Thomas' passing has deeply impacted them.
"It breaks my heart because I have a child the same age," Janet Jordan, of Farmingville, Long Island, said through tears. "I couldn't even imagine going through this on an first-hand basis."
Doreen Triola of Huntington, Long Island, shared similar sentiments saying that "it's a horrible thing for any child to die, but to die in such a horrendous way and by the hands of the parents is just heartbreaking."
In a show of solidarity, many of the mourners wore blue ribbons to raise awareness about child abuse and to support victims.
Investigators arrested 40-year-old Michael Valva, an NYPD officer, and his fiancee, Angela Pollina, 42, charging them with his murder. They remain behind bars.
Detectives say the two forced Thomas to sleep in a terribly cold garage at their home at Center Moriches and was found unresponsive. According to police, by the time the little boy got to a hospital his body temperature was only 76 degrees, possibly indicating an earlier time of death.
An autopsy was ordered to determine how he died. The medical examiner ruled the boy's death a homicide, finding found that hypothermia was a major contributing factor.
Meanwhile, the Nassau County legislature says it will hold a public hearing in an effort to avoid other children suffering similar fate as Thomas since there are questions over the handling of the case by the Department of Social Services with many questioning why Tommy's father had custody of him.
The county's Health Committee is expected to discuss Social Services and its staffing, processes and procedures.
Advocates on Wednesday protested outside the Nassau County courthouse, saying that the broken court system failed little Tommy and is in desperate need of reform.
Some of the protesters demanded the three judges involved in the young boy's custody case be removed from the bench, alleging they ignored numerous reports that he and five other children were being abused by Michael Valva and Pollina. Their attorneys have issued denials — similar to a not guilty plea in criminal court.
A spokesperson for the judges refused to comment, but a state court spokesperson released a statement saying no one outside of those directly involved has "any knowledge of the facts, circumstances, emotional issues and complexities" that led to the judges' rulings.
The boy's mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, and his two brothers, who have now been placed in her custody, on Wednesday attended his wake in Deer Park. Zubko-Valva choked back tears as she thanked supporters who left toys and cards to honor the boy.
"Please continue praying for my family, for Tommy," she said.
Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe said at an arraignment last week that audio files recovered from Michael Valva and Pollina's Center Moriches home recorded the couple discussing the fact that Thomas was suffering from hypothermia, had been washed with cold water, couldn't walk and was "face-planting" on the concrete.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has said that a committee will examine how the department dealt with the abuse allegations.
A separate task force will also examine how the social services department handles cases of children with autism and developmental disabilities. Thomas exhibited signs of autism, authorities said.
“As a parent, I am horrified by what happened to this beautiful boy,” Bellone said. “As county executive, I want to know if there is anything else that could have been done under existing law to prevent this from happening. Beyond that, I want to know if anything in this case suggests that changes should be made to existing policy or law.”