The Long Island stepmom who testified in her own defense that she was “evil” but not a killer was found guilty Friday of second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in the death of her ex’s 8-year-old son Thomas Valva.
As in the case against her former fiance and ex-NYPD cop Michael Valva, Angela Pollina, 45, faces the prospect of 25 years to life in prison in the freezing garage killing of Thomas, who was on the autism spectrum.
Her sentencing is scheduled for April 11 in Riverhead.
Thomas Valva froze to death after his father punished him for soiling himself. The trial established that Michael Valva, of Center Moriches, sprayed the boy with a hose and forced both Thomas and his brother, 10-year-old Anthony Valva, who also has autism, to sleep in a garage during the winter.
Michael Valva initially tried to pass off his son’s death as an accident, but second-degree murder and child endangerment charges were issued against both defendants in Jan. 2020.
Jurors began their deliberations in Pollina’s case on Thursday, after the defendant’s own trial testimony established that she abused the boy and that she tried to cover up that abuse. Defense lawyer Matthew Tuohy reportedly said in his closing pitch to jurors that “being a bitch” is not a crime in America.
More Law&Crime coverage: Admittedly ‘evil’ stepmom cries at murder trial over freezing garage death of ex-NYPD officer’s 8-year-old son with autism
The defense maintained that Michael Valva alone was responsible for the slaying, claiming that Pollina did not believe the victim was in “immediate danger” on the day of the murder and saying the stepmom actually provided the victim blankets and a heater.
“[Michael Valva] did it. He committed the acts. And she tried to help the boy,” Pollina’s lawyer said.
After his conviction by a jury of his peers, Michael Valva did admit he neglected and abused his sons, killing one of them.
“I am truly sorry, I am ashamed, I am heartbroken and grief-stricken standing before you having contributed to the death of my son Thomas. I loved Thomas with all my heart,” said Valva. “My actions were neglectful and abusive to my boys, resulting in the tragic death of Thomas. I lost focus on how to be a good father. I was so wrong and it cost Thomas his life.”
But the prosecution said these admissions did not mean that Pollina isn’t equally culpable under the law for murder.
“She acknowledged it was evil – and it was,” Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly reportedly said, according to the New York Post’s account of what was said in court. “She tortured them! Screamed at them! She forced him out into the cold! Thomas was tortured and died for the sin of being autistic.”
Notably, jurors reportedly asked during deliberations for a read back of the murder charge and for the court to define depraved indifference.
New York law says that “depraved indifference to human life reflects a wicked, evil or inhuman state of mind, as manifested by brutal, heinous and despicable acts.” The definition contains the term “evil,” which Pollina used on witness stand to describe herself.
“I was evil,” she said of forcing the helpless boys sleep out in the garage.
#BREAKING | A jury has found a woman guilty on all counts in the death of her ex-fiancé’s 8-year-old son, Thomas Valva.
It took a jury just more than six hours of deliberation to reach the verdict. pic.twitter.com/00Nl9ahpc8
— PIX11 News (@PIX11News) March 10, 2023
During testimony, Pollina claimed she was having a “hectic” morning taking care of her three daughters and getting them ready for school before she witnessed her ex spray Thomas with the hose.
“Michael put down the hose. I just shook my head. I said, ‘what the f—,'” Pollina reportedly testified. “I was shocked by what I saw.”
Despite claiming to have been shocked by that, Pollina reportedly admitted under cross-examination that she went on to delete surveillance video at the home. The defendant suggested she only then realized how badly abused the children were.
PIX 11 has more on that testimony.
Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney said after the verdict that Pollina’s actions were “pure evil.”
“The cruelty that Thomas and his brother had to endure because of this defendant’s callous and selfish conduct is abhorrent, and, thankfully, the jury clearly agreed,” the DA said in a statement. “Her treatment of these children was nothing short of pure evil. This defendant will now face the consequences of her actions and will experience her own imprisonment just as she forced these boys to live imprisoned in a freezing garage.”
“Unlike Thomas and his brother, Pollina deserves this punishment,” Tierney added.
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