What to Know
- An NYPD officer and his fiancee have been indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury for the alleged murder of his 8-year-old son
- Michael Valva and Angela Pollina were arrested last month in Thomas Valva's death
- Authorities allege the boy was forced to spend the night in a cold garage, with hypothermia contributing to his death
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.
Investigators arrested 40-year-old Michael Valva, an NYPD officer, and his fiancee, Angela Pollina, 42, on Jan. 24, charging them Thomas Valva's murder.
On Thursday 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.
Detectives say the two forced Thomas Valva to sleep in a cold garage at their home at Center Moriches. 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.
Thomas’ mom Justyna Zubko-Valva wept in court, holding his funeral card, as prosecutors detailed the abuse he allegedly suffered.
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.
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 boy's mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, and his two brothers, who have now been placed in her custody, attended his wake in Deer Park late last week. 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 two weeks ago 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 social services 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.