N.Y.P.D. officer charged with murder of Autistic son

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ASPartOfMe
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01 Nov 2022, 8:18 am

ER doctor in Valva murder trial says severe hypothermia causes 'dismal expectation for survival'

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The prosecution called Dr. David Saintsing to the stand to counteract Dr. Kenneth Zafren – a defense witness who testified on Friday.
Saintsing, who prosecutors say is an expert in hypothermia, also told jurors that it's 80% more likely that someone with severe hypothermia is going to go into cardiac arrest.

The Colorado doctor said there would be a "dismal expectation for survival."

Zafren had said in an earlier testimony that a hypothermic patient with no detectable vital signs could still be resuscitated.

Defense attorney Anthony LaPinta says Dr. Saintsing was not a qualified hypothermia expert.
"So I think it's very clear that this witness has very, very little, minimal experience in hypothermia," LaPinta says. "It was just so abundantly clear from cross-examination and hence, I don't think any of the conclusions he's reached regarding hypothermia should be given much weight at all."

Prosecutors say Thomas Valva's body temperature was around 76 degrees the day he died.


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01 Nov 2022, 9:15 am

may that poor kid be in paradise up in heaven now.



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02 Nov 2022, 8:28 am

Jurors in Michael Valva's murder trial can consider lesser charges, judge rules as defense rests
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The jury in the murder trial of ex-NYPD Officer Michael Valva will consider two lesser charges in addition to second-degree murder as it seeks to determine whether Valva should be convicted of killing his 8-year-old son Thomas by allegedly forcing him to sleep in a freezing garage, the presiding judge ruled Tuesday as the defense rested its case.

Suffolk Supreme Court Justice William Condon said the jury, which is scheduled to hear closing arguments in the trial Thursday, can consider whether to convict Valva of second-degree manslaughter, which is punishable by a maximum of 5 to 15 years in prison, or criminally negligent homicide, which is punishable by up to 4 years in prison. A conviction on the second-degree murder charge carries a sentence of 25 years to life in priso

Earlier Tuesday, two defense witnesses testified that Valva was "distraught" at the Patchogue hospital where Thomas died and was weeping and moaning after viewing the boy’s body at the morgue the next day.

Mascia, who testified under subpoena, was on the witness stand inside a Riverhead courtroom as the defense played a video from the hospital's surveillance system, showing Valva inside the hospital emergency room's "family room" from about 10:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thomas had been pronounced dead in the hospital’s nearby trauma room at 10:28 a.m.

Valva, who had pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and child endangerment in the Jan. 17, 2020 death of Thomas and the alleged abuse of both Thomas and his eldest son Anthony, was seen in the video seated in a chair and at different points rocked back and forth, put his forehead in one of his hands and also appeared to be using his phone several times.

Mascia, as well as a social worker and a priest, was seen offering comfort to Valva by rubbing his shoulders and arms. Then-lead Suffolk homicide detective Norberto Flores was also seen on the video speaking to Valva, Mascia testified, and a uniformed Suffolk police officer patted Valva down to determine if the then-cop was carrying a firearm. Valva complied, according to the video.

On cross-examination by lead prosecutor Kerriann Kelly, Mascia noted that the video showed Valva was on his phone, texting and making at least one call, and at one point stretched his legs out in front of him while he sat down. He had no trouble walking, Mascia agreed.

“He looked pretty relaxed and comfortable there?” Kelly asked.

“Yes, he did,” Mascia replied.

“He never leaned over and took a tissue?” Kelly asked, referring to a box of tissues in the room.

“I did not see that,” Mascia said.

NYPD Transit Officer Kenneth Wengert, also a union delegate for the Police Benevolent Association, testified that Valva appeared “stoic” when he arrived at the Bittersweet Lane home on the morning of Jan. 18, 2020, to offer support.

Wengert, also testifying under subpoena, said he avoided having a conversation with Valva about the circumstances surrounding Thomas’ death because the case was under investigation. He testified that he accompanied Valva and his ex-fiancee, Angela Pollina, to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office in Hauppauge later that day to identify Thomas’ body.

“I would say he was stoic and not functioning as he normally would,” Wengert testified when defense attorney Anthony La Pinta asked him about Valva’s emotional state that day.

Valva was much more emotional later that day, according to Wengert, who said he was “weeping, wailing, moaning and crying” after viewing Thomas’ body at the morgue.

Under cross-examination from Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe, Wengert testified that while he was aware of issues between Valva and the boys’ mother Justyna Zubko-Valva, Valva never complained to him about Pollina and never said she was “domineering,” a characterization that Valva’s defense attorneys have repeatedly used to describe Pollina.

Wengert also testified that he was aware that Valva had established a GoFundMe page to raise money for Thomas’ funeral expenses. Valva had told him that he had been struggling with financial problems and didn’t have money for the funeral.

In his redirect, La Pinta asked Wengert if he was aware that Valva had taken advances from his pension in the years before Thomas’ death. Wengert said he had not previously known that.

Later Tuesday, Steven M. Troyd, a private investigator hired by the defense, narrated a series of text messages between Valva and Pollina from 2018 to 2020.

The texts presented by Troyd, who was hired by the defense to prepare a PowerPoint presentation with the messages, appeared to support the defense claim that Valva was overwhelmed financially and emotionally from a lengthy custody battle with Zubko-Valva, and was forced to stay in the relationship with Pollina, despite her treatment of the boys, because he had nowhere else to go.

In a Feb. 26, 2018, text message exchange, Pollina accused Valva of fighting for custody of this three sons because he did not want to pay child support to Zubko-Valva.

“Of course I love my kids,” Valva fired back. “I’m no deadbeat dad.”

“You want a life with me, then give them back,” Pollina replied.

In another text exchange, dated Feb. 7, 2019, Valva told Pollina he understood that she had to leave the house to blow off steam and pleaded with her to return home.

“I want that [expletive] kid out of the house,” she said, referring to Anthony.

Other text exchanges detailed the financial problems the couple experienced after they moved in together, with Pollina complaining that their mortgage was $4,200. Pollina urged Valva to move out and take his sons with him.

“Give me a chance to find a place first so they’re not living out of a car,” Valva responded in a Feb. 7, 2019 text.

Pollina told Valva, “foreclosure is your favorite.” Valva wrote back: “And dumping me is yours.”

In another text exchange, Pollina appeared angry at Valva for letting the boys in the house when she was not home. “You did this when my back was turned,” she said.

In a Dec. 21, 2019 text, Pollina appeared upset that she never saw Valva anymore because he was working nights for additional money.

“I’m trying so hard to make it all work,” Valva replied.

Condon told jurors that they could begin deliberations as early as Thursday afternoon.

Lead Valva defense attorney John LoTurco also informed the court that his client would not testify at the trial. Asked directly by Condon if he had decided not to testify, Valva replied, “yes, sir.”


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04 Nov 2022, 12:03 am

Closing arguments delivered in Thomas Valva murder trial, jury deliberations set to begin Friday

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Prosecutors opened with a photo of the 8-year-old taken the day before he died. He was at school with red cheeks and red hands giving a thumbs up.

They then showed a photo from Thomas Valva's autopsy and described him as "the same broken little boy" shown in the photo when he was alive.

KerriAnn Kelly, the lead prosecutor, said Michael Valva had complete disregard for Thomas Valva's life. She said the child was banished to the garage and there was physical abuse in the home, saying "that child was being tortured in that house of horrors."

Prosecutors say the father had no emotion as he walked past his son's backpack that was left in the cold garage where the child slept before dying of hypothermia. They say Michael Valva walked past the backpack many times before his arrest, and never even looked inside the last thing his son left behind.

The defense said that the district attorney wants to demonize the father and portray him as a cold-blooded monster, but LoTurco told the jury that second-degree murder is an overzealous charge.

He said that Michael Valva is guilty of child neglect, maltreatment, atrocious parenting at times, lying to police by not giving them a full narrative of what happened and saying horrible things to his son.

However, when it comes to murder in the second degree, LoTurco said, "We claim there are a plethora of reasonable doubts."

"We strategically told the jury that Michael was guilty of criminally negligent homicide, he failed to perceive the risk of that day and he was a negligent part of Thomas' death. We hope that the jury would be less inclined to find him guilty of the depraved indifference murder charge."


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


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05 Nov 2022, 4:46 am

Ex-NYPD Cop Guilty of Murder in Death of Son, 8, Forced to Sleep in Freezing Garage

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A former NYPD officer was found guilty of murder in the death of his 8-year-old son, who was forced to sleep in the family's freezing Long Island garage in January 2020.

Following a gut-wrenching five-week trial, the jury found Michael Valva guilty after seven hours of deliberation on Friday.

Valva was found guilty on five counts, including murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Sentencing was set for Dec. 8. He faces 25 years to life in prison.

After the verdict, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney called the case "heartbreaking" and one of the toughest he's experienced for all involved. Prosecutors said the verdict gives young Thomas a small amount of justice.

"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," Tierney said in a statement. "No child should ever have to endure such evil acts. While there is nothing that we can do to bring Thomas back, we are satisfied with the jury’s decision. 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."

Polina has also been charged with murder in the case and previously pleaded not guilty. Her trial date has not yet been set.


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07 Nov 2022, 12:59 pm

Jurors tell Newsday they were split on top murder charge going into deliberations
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The jury considering the fate of Michael Valva was split on whether to convict the ex-NYPD cop of the top charge of second-degree murder in the hypothermia death of his 8-year-old son, Thomas, when deliberations began Friday morning.

Jurors who spoke to Newsday over the weekend said they needed to better understand the legal concept of “depraved indifference,” a key part of the murder charge. And they wanted to build a timeline of events on the morning of Thomas' Jan. 17, 2020, death, so they asked to again hear the audio captured on the surveillance system at the home in Center Moriches.

"You're putting someone's life in your hands. You wanna be sure," said juror No. 6, Moises Lopez, a 25-year-old student who works in sales and lives in Bay Shore. "You don't want to do it in 20 minutes."

Three of the 12 jurors who unanimously voted Friday evening to convict Valva of second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in Thomas' death, and the abuse of both Thomas and his older brother Anthony, then 10, spoke to Newsday in separate interviews. The jury forewoman declined to comment, and several other jurors did not respond to messages.
Serving as jurors in the more than monthlong trial in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead as witnesses detailed Thomas and Anthony crying for food and coming to school bruised and battered was emotionally wrenching, they said. But they maintained an open mind as to whether Valva was innocent or guilty, they said.

“During the opening statements, it was really, really hard just to hear it all. … I’m like, ‘What?’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ I started shaking," said Thaddeus L. Brewer, a salesperson at a Honda car dealership, who was juror No. 11. "How can I be here and just hear this? And the defense came and he told a different side. I said, ‘Oh, OK, maybe that isn’t what was going on.’ It was a roller coaster.”

Brewer said he continued to work nights during the trial. But on the day that a plumber, who did repairs at the Valva home in July 2019, took the stand and tearfully described Pollina pushing one of the boys down two flights of stairs as Valva stood by and did nothing, Brewer said he was too upset to make it to work that night.

“I took a long drive after that,” said Brewer, of Bay Shore. “It kind of messed with me a little bit. One of the first things I did was call my two grandchildren — I have a 5-year-old granddaughter and a 2-year-old grandson — to hear their voices, to tell them I love them.”

When the jury of eight women and four men began deliberating just after 11 a.m. Friday, they almost immediately took an anonymous vote on the second-degree murder charge. They each wrote their vote on a piece of paper and handed it to the forewoman, who then announced the results.

"It was definitely split," said juror No. 4, Christina Anselmo, who said she favored convicting Valva on the top charge from the beginning of deliberations. "I think there was one person who initially said not guilty and five said unsure. So our goal in seeing the videos again and listening to the 911 call was to see if we could hear an ounce of compassion or care in Michael's voice that day and really get a better idea of how long it took for Michael to take action."

The jury sent its first note to State Supreme Court Justice William Condon asking for a copy of the charges at 11:25 a.m. Condon reread to the jury the definition of second-degree murder and its elements, as well as the lesser-included charges of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Lead Valva defense attorney John LoTurco already had conceded Valva’s guilt to the four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the abuse of Thomas and Anthony during his summation. But he had urged the jury to convict Valva of the lowest charge connected to the murder, criminally negligent homicide, which calls for a maximum prison sentence of up to 4 years behind bars.

The jurors said they didn’t consider that charge. But they worked through their lunch while eating deli sandwiches provided by the court. They only stopped deliberating for bathroom breaks. The atmosphere was cordial.

“It was a friendly debate,” Lopez said. “Nobody was fighting at all. We were like, finally we can talk about it.”

The jury also asked for crime scene photos taken by investigators, and to listen to Valva's 911 call and the nearly two-hour-long audio from the "Bella's room" video, a key piece of evidence because it captured much of what transpired in the home on the morning of Thomas' death.

As the jury deliberated, jurors discussed the countering theories of the case. In particular, prosecutors' claims that Valva took Thomas outside and, while naked, doused him with cold water from a spigot. The defense argued the spigot wasn't used, and that Valva instead had filled a Sprite bottle with water to clean Thomas after he soiled himself and then brought the boy inside and gave him a shower that turned into a warm bath.

"I made the point that I don't think there was a bath," Lopez said. "He says he's catatonic or unresponsive, so you wouldn't be able to put your kid in a shower if he's unresponsive."

Brewer, who said he initially was leaning toward the manslaughter charge, said he shifted after watching the video again and hearing the charges.


“Seeing that it took almost an hour to call 911, that was really it,” Brewer said. “Just finding no compassion at all, no remorse. Everything he did and said was depraved indifference."

Anselmo said she and her fellow jurors wanted to be thorough.

“We really took this seriously,” she said. “This is a decision that really affects the rest of his life. I think the public probably thought, ‘Oh, this is in the bag, why are they taking so long?’ But this is a serious decision.”

Lopez, who said his jury service has reinvigorated his goal of becoming a police officer, said: “I tried to put myself in Michael’s shoes. I prayed about it. I said if this man is innocent, let us see that. But there was just an overwhelming amount of evidence against him.”

Lopez said the jury ultimately concluded that Thomas “was dead for a while” before Valva called 911 at 9:41 a.m.

“We think he died in the garage before he was even brought to the basement,” Lopez said. “His lips were already blue by the time the police and EMTs got there. One thing that I pointed out, when he was in the garage yelling at Thomas, he then gets quiet and says, ‘Ang, can you come here for a minute?’ That's when we think he realized Thomas wasn't alive anymore.”

Anselmo, an assistant dean at Stony Brook University's School of Communication and Journalism, said the evidence showed that Pollina was dominant in the relationship — a key defense argument based on scores of text messages between the then-couple.

“It was obvious he was manipulated and bullied by Angela and he tried to put a stop to it — well, he said he was going to put a stop to it — but he never did,” said Anselmo, 41, of Stony Brook. “So it was really the inaction over the previous years, and then ultimately the inaction that morning that really made up my mind. It left us with no choice. We tried to see some good in him, and I think deep down inside there really was. But ultimately his inaction led to this. Any parent’s role is to take care of their children and protect them.”

“We didn’t feel like any of the defense witnesses were super credible,” Anselmo added. “It seemed like Tyrene [Rodriguez, the housekeeper] was a bit, but she didn’t remember details as well. And the hypothermia specialist was a bit odd and didn’t seem like he had prepared that well for it or reviewed notes of the case.”

Anselmo and Lopez said they and the rest of the jury were especially confounded at the hypothermia expert’s contention that it wasn’t important for doctors to receive accurate information about the events leading up to an injury — a reaction they shared with lead prosecutor Kerriann Kelly, who appeared bewildered by the expert’s statements while she cross-examined him.

“Her reaction was priceless,” Anselmo said.

Jurors praised the work of all the lawyers in the case, saying they were impressed with their professionalism and especially with the evidence display from the prosecution, including Kelly and prosecutors Laura Newcombe and James Scahill.

As their discussions were winding down, the jury decided to take another anonymous vote sometime just before 6 p.m. as they ate pizza that the court had provided for dinner. This time there was consensus that Valva was guilty of the top charge. They sent a note to the judge at 6:03 p.m. announcing that they had reached a verdict.

Alternate juror No. 1, John Mulhern, did not decide the case, but the retired librarian remained in the courtroom with his fellow alternates as the verdict was rendered.

“We had all been there for five weeks ourselves and we wanted to see what the jury had to say and we wanted to see how it all played out,” said Mulhern, 71, of Kings Park. “It was all very impressive to see the justice system play out the way it did.”

Mulhern said he concurred with the jury.

LoTurco, speaking to the reporters afterward, said he understood the case was “exceptionally challenging” for the jury.

“Michael, no matter what the verdict was, would be battling his demons for the rest of his life,” said LoTurco, who was joined by fellow defense attorneys Anthony La Pinta and Sabato Caponi. “We were appointed when no other attorneys would step up to the plate. He was unrepresented and we as a defense team decided that Michael Valva needed an attorney, because in our country every person needs an attorney no matter how grievous the charges and heinous the charges are filed against them.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said the prosecution was “gratified” by the jury’s decision, but said its focus now shifts to Pollina, who has pleaded not guilty and is expected to be tried for second-degree murder early next year.


The parts I hid discussed "triggering" evidence and jurors discussing how they were traumatized by that evidence.


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08 Dec 2022, 12:28 pm

Ex-cop Michael Valva, found guilty of killing son with autism, sentenced

Quote:
A former NYPD officer was sentenced to 25 years to life in the murder of his son.

A tearful Valva read a statement to the judge before being sentenced.

"How did all of us as a community allow this to happen," an equally emotional Judge William Condon asked out loud to the Riverhead courtroom.

"I don't think you intended to kill Thomas, not at all," he said to Valva, who was still crying. "But there is no getting around that Thomas and Anthony lived their lives in constant duress in the place they should have felt safest, their own home."

"An 8-year-old boy who right now should be getting excited for Christmas is dead, I speak for everybody out there, we can never let this happen again."


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


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08 Dec 2022, 11:00 pm

Jurors react after judge sentences Michael Valva to 25 years to life in prison
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Twelve of the 17 jurors and alternates who sat through six-plus weeks of testimony attended Thursday’s sentencing. Several of them later said they were happy that Supreme Court Justice William Condon sentenced Valva to 25 years to life in prison, the toughest sentence Condon could impose.

He’s getting exactly what he deserved,” juror Scott Krusen of Coram said. “He’s a horrible human being.”

Condon handed down the sentence to Valva, 43, of Center Moriches, in a packed Riverhead courtroom that also included East Moriches teachers and school administrators
who testified that Thomas and his brother Anthony frequently came to school hungry, bruised or in urine-soaked clothing
.

“I have twins that are 11,” said Krusen, who served on the jury as an alternate. “They are two months older than Thomas and I couldn’t imagine any father doing what he did to his kids."

Juror Thomas Molloy said the trial was difficult for the jury because they were barred from discussing the evidence,
which included video of Thomas and Anthony shivering as they slept on a concrete floor in an unheated garage in frigid weather. Another video showed Valva beating one of the boys. In text messages presented to the jury, Valva and his former fiancee, Angela Pollina — who is scheduled to go to trial in February on the same charges — mock and berate Valva’s sons


“A very emotional trial, very, very emotional. I was distraught every day, especially because you couldn’t go home and talk about anything," said Molloy, of Rocky Point. "You had to keep everything inside, sealed up for six weeks. It was a very difficult thing to do.”

Molloy said he is still haunted by video presented at trial
that shows Thomas as he was dying
.

”You have occasional nightmares about it, too," he said. "It comes up in my sleep and in my dreams, absolutely.”

Juror Christina Anselmo of Setauket said she was surprised to hear Valva make a sob-filled statement expressing remorse about Thomas’ death because the defendant appeared to show little emotion during the trial.

"I believe there is some remorse there,” Anselmo said. “I don’t think he intended on that happening, but he sure enough didn’t do anything to stop it.

“I think we all feel a sense of closure right now,” Anselmo added. “We were so emotionally invested in this for so long. It was a big part of our lives. We gave up a lot of time with our families and at our jobs. We felt like we needed to come here today and see an end to it.”


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Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman