Skip to main content

‘You tortured those boys’: Judge berates ‘evil’ stepmom in freezing garage murder of 8-year-old boy

Angela Pollina, Thomas Valva, and the home where the boy died.

Angela Pollina, Thomas Valva, and the home where the boy died.

An incensed judge excoriated the woman convicted of murdering her 8-year-old stepson by forcing him to sleep in an unheated garage in the winter, calling her “evil” and saying that the maximum sentence of 25 years to life wasn’t a harsh enough punishment for the “torture” she inflicted on her stepchildren.

Angela Pollina, 45, had witnessed her husband Michael Valva turn a hose on young Thomas Valva before forcing him to sleep in the garage of their Long Island home in January of 2020. As temperatures dropped to 19 degrees Fahrenheit, Thomas eventually froze to death.

“I’ve had the opportunity to visit the prison where you’ll be sent,” Judge Timothy Mazzei said during Polina’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday. “My only regret, Ms. Pollina, is that they don’t have a garage there with no heat, and no mattress, and no blankets, and no pillows, and […] nothing that belongs in a bedroom. So you could sleep [there] for the rest of your life. Because that’s where you deserve to be for the rest of your natural life.”

A Suffolk County jury last month found Pollina guilty of second-degree murder and child endangerment for the death of her stepson. Thomas died of hypothermia after Pollina and Valva forced him and his 10-year-old brother Anthony Valva to sleep on the concrete floor of the garage after their father sprayed them with a hose. The torturous treatment was meant to punish Thomas, who had autism, for soiling himself.

Michael Valva, a former NYPD police officer, received the same sentence — 25 years to life — in December for his role in his son’s death.

“You tortured those boys,” Judge Mazzei reiterated to Pollina during her sentencing hearing. “You tortured them.”

According to a press release from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, in the months leading up to Thomas’ death, Pollina sent Valva text messages insisting that the boys sleep in the garage of their Center Moriches home and not be allowed to use the bathrooms inside.

Footage from a surveillance camera inside the home showed Pollina doing her bills in the kitchen while “well aware of Thomas’s condition and doing nothing to help care for him,” the release states. That footage also showed Pollina’s callous response when another child in the home asked why Thomas was unable to walk.

“Cause he’s hypothermic, hypothermic means you’re freezing, washing yourself in cold water when it’s freezing outside, you get hypothermic,” she said, according to the video.

Other footage also showed Pollina watching as Michael Valva hosed down Thomas and his brother with cold water in the backyard, even taking the time to “reprimand” Michael Valva for yelling at the kids “because the neighbors might hear.”

Thomas was ultimately pronounced dead at Long Island Community Hospital after going into cardiac arrest brought on by hypothermia. His body temperature was only 76 degrees when he arrived at the medical facility.

Pollina took the stand in her own defense during the trial and openly admitted that her actions were “evil.”

“I was evil,” she said of forcing the helpless boys sleep out in the garage, but claimed she had been having a “hectic” day in dealing with her three daughters. Pollina also repeatedly blamed Michael Valva for actually causing Thomas’ death.

Prosecutors on Tuesday emphasized that Pollina — who admitted to deleting incriminating footage from her home’s surveillance system — had shown no remorse for her actions.

Join the discussion 

“Not once did the defendant indicate in any way, shape, or form that she was sorry for what happened to 8-year-old Thomas Valva,” lead prosecutor Kerriann Kelly told the court. “An 8-year-old little boy who has now lost his life. Not once, did she indicate that she was simply sorry for what happened, an 8-year-old boy who lived in her house for two years. Not even sorry that he died.”

Watch the full hearing below.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.