Thomas Valva was just eight years old when he froze to death in the garage of his Long Island home. Prosecutors argued the boy’s father, 43-year-old former NYPD police officer Michael Valva, knowingly forced they child and his 10-year-old brother to sleep on the concrete floor of the unheated garage after being hosed down with freezing water in the middle of winter despite temperatures dropping to under 20 degrees. A jury on Friday agreed, unanimously finding Valva guilty on one count of second-degree murder in his son’s death, prosecutors announced.
In addition to murder, Valva was also found guilty on four counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The boy ultimately died on Jan. 20, 2020 after going into cardiac arrest brought on by hypothermia. His body temperature was reportedly only 76 degrees when he arrived at Long Island Community Hospital.
Valva’s conviction came after jurors reportedly deliberated for seven hours following the five-week trial.
“Today the jury has spoken on the tragic murder of Thomas Valva by his father, the defendant Michael Valva,” Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said in a statement. “This guilty verdict will not bring back 8-year-old Thomas, who suffered immense cruelty at the hands of his father, the same person who was entrusted to protect, provide and unconditionally love Thomas and his older brother Anthony. This case is heartbreaking, and it has been one of the toughest child abuse trials for our prosecutors, court personnel and jurors. No child should ever have to endure such evil acts.”
Valva’s former fiancée, Angela Pollina, 45, was also charged with one count each of second-degree murder and child endangerment in Thomas’ death. She has pleaded not guilty. A date for her trial has not yet been set.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, Valva initially tried to pass off his son’s death as an accident. He told investigators that Thomas fell while he was trying to catch up with the school bus, but police didn’t buy the story. The 8-year-old’s head and facial injuries were inconsistent with the defendant’s version of events, authorities said.
At the time of the murder, Valva had custody of his three sons, ages six, eight, and 10. Pollina had three daughters: a 6-year-old and twin 11-year-old girls.
Prosecutors said that Thomas and his brother had been locked in the garage without heat for approximately 16 hours before Thomas succumbed to the brutal conditions. The children, both of whom were on the autism spectrum, were reportedly sent to the garage as punishment for accidentally urinating and defecating inside of the house.
Prosecutors also reportedly presented evidence showing that Valva and Pollina had been physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive towards the two boys for months prior to Thomas’ death.
“I will beat them until they bleed,” the defendant texted Polina about disciplining the boys, according to a report from the New York Daily News. “It is the only thing that works.”
Prosecutors also alleged that the boys were intentionally starved and were observed “literally eating crumbs off of the floor” at school.
“While there is nothing that we can do to bring Thomas back, we are satisfied with the jury’s decision,” DA Tierney said. “Michael Valva subjected his sons to horrific abuse, neglect and cruelty. He will now pay for cutting short the life of a young, innocent, defenseless boy who had a lifetime ahead of him.”
Valva faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
[Screenshot via WCBS-TV.]
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