Crime and Courts
Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.
Thomas Valva

NYPD Cop, Fiancee Indicted in Son’s Freezing Death Appear in Court With Boy’s Mother

There were some tense moments as the boy's mom — who has said Suffolk CPS played a role in her son's death — objected to the agency's request for greater access to her two sons

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What to Know

  • An NYPD officer and his fiancee indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury for the alleged murder of his 8-year-old son appeared in court Thursday
  • Michael Valva and Angela Pollina were arrested last month in Thomas Valva's death and they're expected at a hearing on allegations they also abused five other children
  • Authorities allege the boy died after he was forced to spend the night in a cold garage at the couple's Center Moriches home

An NYPD officer and his fiancee indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury in the death of the cop's 8-year-old son, who was allegedly left to freeze to death in a cold garage, appeared in court Thursday — standing just feet away from the boy's mother.

Michael Valva, 40, and his fiancee, Angela Pollina, were in family court for a hearing on allegations they also abused five other children living in their Center Moriches home. The couple were indicted last week in Thomas Valva's death.

The five other children include the two surviving brothers of Thomas, plus three girls who were Pollina's daughters with other men.

Detectives say the two forced Thomas to sleep in a cold garage at their home. By the time the little boy got to a hospital, his body temperature was only 76 degrees, possibly indicating an earlier time of death.

A judge ordered Michael Valva held without bail after he pleaded not guilty to one count of second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The judge also ordered Pollina held without bail on the same charges.

On Thursday, lawyers for Suffolk County Child Protective Services detailed how Pollina's three daughters were doing well while in the custody of their two fathers, and back in school. During her court hearing, Pollina did not ask for visitation.

There were some tense moments in the courtroom as Thomas’ mom Justyna Zubko-Valva objected to Suffolk CPS' request for greater access to her two sons. She said she had concerns about that, saying she was worried about the agency being back in her children's lives.

The mother has maintained that CPS ignored her claims of abuse, and have part of a role in Thomas' death. The judge on Thursday assured her that he would pay close attention to how CPS handled the matter, saying that his job is to protect the two children. She eventually agreed to cooperate, and later told the judge that she at some point would be seeking permanent custody of her surviving sons.

An NYPD officer and his fiancee indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury in the death of the cop's 8-year-old son, who was allegedly left to freeze to death in a cold garage, will appear in court on Thursday.

Zubko-Valva wept in court last week, holding a funeral card for Thomas, as prosecutors detailed the abuse he allegedly suffered. He exhibited signs of autism, authorities said.

They described a pattern of verbal and physical abuse, including food deprivation and being denied blankets, pillows and even clothing. Both came to school, prosecutors said, wearing diapers because they weren’t allowed to use the bathroom at home.

In court, prosecutors claimed some of the abuse was captured on a camera in the garage labeled "the kids’ room" -- and that Pollina texted video clips to Michael Valva while he was on the job.

An NYPD officer and his fiancee were indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury in the death of the cop's 8-year-old son, who was allegedly left to freeze to death in a cold garage after years of verbal and physical abuse. Greg Cergol reports.

The DA's office also alleged that the pair mocked the kids in text messages and that Michael Valva called Thomas a "f—-ing moron" and a "stupid f—-ing son of a bitch" when the boy fell repeatedly in the garage.

County legislators have promised public hearings in an effort to avoid other children suffering a similar fate as Thomas. There is intense pressure on authorities over the handling of the case by the Department of Social Services, with reports that there had been dozens of calls about the welfare of the Valva children over the years.

The mother of 8-year-old Thomas Valva spoke at his vigil on Sunday. Just days before, police arrested the boy's father and his fiancee for allegedly forcing the young boy to sleep in their cold garage, leading to his death by hypothermia.
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