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

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ASPartOfMe
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27 Jan 2020, 3:33 am

8-year-old son of NYPD officer died after being forced to sleep in freezing garage, police say

Quote:
Valva and Pollina have pleaded not guilty but remain in jail after being held without bail.

“Right now [Pollina] is maintaining her innocence,” her attorney, Matt Tuohy, told The Washington Post on Sunday. “It’s going to be a long road. There’s a lot of evidence that hasn’t been brought out.”

An attorney for Valva did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.

Five other children were in the home with Thomas: his 6-year-old and 10-year-old brothers and Pollina’s 6-year-old daughter and 11-year-old twin girls. The surviving children were taken out of the family home on an emergency basis and placed in a “safe environment,” Hart said.

“We are still investigating the extent of the abuse and if it extended to all the children,” Hart said. “These arrests are not the end of the investigation.”

Hart said officials were called to the home last year for a welfare check, but no one was home when they arrived. She declined to comment on previous allegations that Valva was abusing the children.

Valva’s ex-wife, Justyna Zubko-Valva, had apparently alleged for years that her children were being abused by their father. It’s not clear why Zubko-Valva lost custody of her three children in 2017; court records show she filed for divorce from Valva last year.

A Twitter account identified as Zubko-Valva’s by the New York Post appears to document the mother’s attempts to get help since at least January 2018.

Zubko-Valva has said Thomas and one of her other sons have autism. A tweet from Jan. 8, 2018, reads, “Father and his girlfriend are brainwashing my special needs children and teaching them hatred towards their mommy. Parental alienation = children abuse. My children have a right to love their mommy. Taking away that right is a crime.”

The account contains dozens of posts, videos and photos of the children, as well as what appears to be reports in which a school psychologist and special education teacher documented concerns that two of the boys were coming to school hungry and dirty and that Valva and his fiancee “do not understand the depth” of their disabilities.

There are so many people responsible for this tragedy,” Zubko-Valva told the New York Post after her estranged husband’s arrest. “The institutions that are supposed to protect the children protect the abusers.”
Suffolk Social Services Commissioner Frances Pierre told News12 in Long Island that petitions against the family alleging child neglect were filed in 2018, and that safeguards, including court-ordered home supervision for a year, were put in place.

After Thomas’s death, Hart said investigators believe he and his 10-year-old brother were punished with food deprivation and forced to stay in the frigid garage.

The New York Police Department did not respond to requests for comment Sunday, but various New York news outlets reported that Valva had been suspended from his job as an officer.


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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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28 Jan 2020, 6:58 pm

The following two links are behind a paywall
County panel will probe death of Center Moriches boy, Thomas Valva, 8, from alleged abuse

Quote:
Suffolk County is launching a “top-to-bottom” internal probe of how the county’s Department of Social Services handled the case of an 8-year-old Center Moriches boy who died while in his father’s custody after allegedly being forced to sleep in an unheated garage.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a Monday evening news release that a committee will examine how DSS dealt with abuse allegations against NYPD Officer Michael Valva, 40, and his fiancee, Angela Pollina, 42, concerning the six chidren who lived with them. They were charged last week with second-degree murder in the death of one of those children, Thomas Valva.

During a Suffolk County Family Court appearance Monday, Valva and Pollina denied the abuse allegations.

The committee doing the internal probe of DSS will also work with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services as it conducts an independent review of the case, along with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, which is handling the ongoing criminal prosecution, the release said.

Bellone also said a separate task force, co-chaired by Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn and Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman, will look at how CPS handles cases of children with autism and developmental disabilities. Thomas, authorities said, exhibited signs of autism.

Among the 10 members of the task force are child advocates, autism and family violence experts and county lawmakers.

As a parent, I am horrified by what happened to this beautiful boy,” Bellone said. “As county executive, I want to know if there is anything else that could have been done under existing law to prevent this from happening. Beyond that, I want to know if anything in this case suggests that changes should be made to existing policy or law.”

Bellone said the committee doing the internal probe will be made up of county officials and administrators with backgrounds in social services and family court matters. It will be headed by Frances Pierre, who became Suffok’s DSS commissioner last year.

Both Michael Valva and Pollina appeared in Suffolk County Family Court Monday to answer the allegations of severe abuse to their six children, including Thomas.

Suffolk County's CPS had filed petitions alleging the abuse last week after criminal charges were lodged against the couple. They appeared briefly at their arraignments and through their attorneys issued denials — akin to a not guilty plea in criminal court — and are due back in Family Court on Feb. 13.

Suffolk County Family Court Judge Frank Tantone also continued the custody arrangement for the surviving Valva sons — Anthony, 10 and Andrew, 6 — who have been living with their mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, 36, of Valley Stream, since last Wednesday when Tantone awarded her emergency temporary custody.

Gary Rosenthal, counsel for CPS, told the judge the boys were doing well with their mother. "They kids are happy with their mother. They're thriving. They have an abundance of food now."

Zubko-Valva, who is representing herself in the proceedings despite Tantone's offer of a court-appointed attorney, said she was emotional standing mere feet from the people accused of killing her son.

"Standing next to them I just kept thinking about my baby and the way he was abused and it was just breaking my heart," she said. "I pray to God that Tommy, his death, is not going to go in vain."

Tantone, after an hourslong and emotional hearing Monday, granted custody of Pollina's daughters to their biological fathers. Both girls had been living with Pollina's grandparents since their mother's arrest.

Tantone, who heard testimony from both fathers and a CPS case worker who advocated for the girls to be reunited with their dads, imposed strict oversight, including two unannounced CPS visits weekly to each home, counseling for all the girls and their fathers, as well as two weekly dinner visits and 10-hour visits on Saturday for all three girls to spend time with each other.

"These children have had their lives uprooted enough," Tantone said. "So if we can give them that one oasis of normalcy, that's what we're going to do."

Gino Cali, an ex-fiance of Pollina who lives in Oceanside, sobbed after the judge announced he would be reunited with his daughter Gia Cali, 8. Michael Ichkhan, the Lynbrook father of the twins he had with with ex-wife Pollina — Delana and Milana, both 11 — was also emotional. Pollina's attorney Susan DeNatale, of Bayport, had said her client approved of the twins going to live with their father but opposed Gino Cali having custody of their daughter.

Monday evening, there was standing room only in a packed sanctuary at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Center Moriches, where several hundred people held candles, sang hymns and prayed in honor of Thomas. The 5 p.m. Candlelight Evening Prayer, which lasted an hour, drew mourners much younger than Thomas as well as those in their 80s. Many openly wept and wiped tears.


Everyone knew Thomas Valva and his brothers were in danger but it did not matter - Newsday editorial
Quote:
Thomas Valva was in terrible danger, and plenty of people knew it.

The 8-year-old boy’s mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, tried to spread the word via a Twitter account titled “StandAgainstChildAbuse” that included documents and audio and video evidence she said proved that Thomas, his older brother, Anthony, 10, and younger brother, Andrew, 6, were being abused.

A nanny who worked in the house where the boys lived told Newsday that she often came home crying and quit the job because of the way Michael Valva, and his fiancee, Angela Pollina treated the children. Amanda Wildman said the abuse she saw in 2017 and 2018 was mostly verbal, but also included the boys being forced to sit immobile until they urinated on themselves, and then punished for doing so.

The Suffolk County Department of Social Services investigated after child neglect petitions were filed in 2018, and a judge ordered home supervision by DSS for a year, issued orders of protection for the boys that required Valva and Pollina to “refrain from harmful behaviors toward the children” and mandated them to attend parenting classes. After that year of home supervision, Child Protective Services received additional complaints about abuse in the home.

Suffolk's DSS commissioner is "formally reviewing the management of the case to ensure that all protocols were followed in accordance with the law.” A separate task force, co-chaired by Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn and Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman, will look at how CPS handles cases of children with autism and developmental disabilities, of which Thomas exhibited symptoms.

The Office of Court Administration must also review the actions of the family court judge and others in the judicial process charged with looking out for Thomas.

This child should not be dead. His loss is a tragic failure in a system that unfortunately gets too little oversight and resources until the worst happens. Unless we get answers about what happened, it will happen again.

No autistic people are going to be involved in the investigation, all too typical

Trigger Warning abuse details
‘Amazing’ Mom Lost Her Special Boy to a House of Horrors
Quote:
A special boy with special needs, Thomas Valva was 2 going on 3 years old when he spoke his first words.

“‘Ball’ and ‘go,’” speech pathologist Kim Taylor told The Daily Beast on Monday. “So those were the first words with me and I believe to his mom, too. We were really thrilled with his progress.”

She remembered Thomas seemed equally pleased.

“The smiles! He was so happy, he really was,” Taylor remembered.

Taylor figured the remarkable progress was due at least in part to a remarkable presence.

“His mother,” Taylor said. “He was really, really loved.”

Now, just under six years later, Thomas lay in a funeral home and Taylor faced going to Friday’s wake. The boy’s father had somehow gotten custody of Thomas and kept it despite repeated warnings from the mother. And the words everybody remembered were the mocking ones police say his father uttered while the boy was dying from hypothermia.

“He keeps face-planting on the concrete,” the father, New York City Police Officer Michael Valva, said of Thomas, according to prosecutors.

The concrete was the floor of the unheated Long Island garage where detectives say Thomas’ father forced him to sleep without bedding as the temperature dropped to 19 degrees.

“You know why he’s falling,” the father’s live-in girlfriend, Angela Pollina, allegedly said.

“Because he’s cold,” the father allegedly replied. “Boo f*****g hoo.”

As the whole country was horrified by those ghoulish utterances, Taylor was remembering those first syllables that were a testament to the boy’s mother. Taylor had worked with Thomas between the ages of 2 and 3 as part of New York State’s Early Intervention Program (EIP). She remembers that Thomas and his two brothers were blessed with an uncommonly loving and attentive mom.

“She was an amazing mother, she really was,” Taylor told The Daily Beast. “Just completely involved in their lives. Making sure they got the time they needed.”

Even though Justyna Zubko-Valva also had a newborn and a 4-year-old with his own special needs, she always devoted her full attention to Thomas during Taylor’s twice weekly visits to the Long Island home to help him with his speech and language disabilities.

“She was overwhelmed, but she was always trying to make sure he got everything he needed,” Taylor said.

Other mothers of autistic kids would wander off to another room during the sessions. But not Zubko-Valva.

“His mom sat with me the entire session, asking questions,” Taylor remembered.

Other autistic children of her considerable experience were emotionally muted and physically standoffish even with their moms. But not Thomas.

“He had this love for his mother,” Taylor recalled. “He was always hugging her, loving her. It was just a beautiful thing to see.”

And Thomas made tremendous progress.

“Great eye contact while trying to make sounds,” Taylor said. “I just saw amazing strides. Real interaction. A lot more than I saw with other students that age.”

Thomas delighted in puzzles and in games such as one that involved Taylor making a sound while rolling a ball toward him. Thomas began imitating the sound while rolling the ball back. She recorded it in her notes when Thomas uttered what she believed to be those two words born of a mother’s love.

On the few occasions the father was present, he stayed in another part of the house.

“I didn’t have a lot of interaction with the dad,” Taylor said. “My feeling about him is that he was not really involved. He was doing his own thing.”

“This is a mom who was extremely involved with her kids,” Taylor said. “They were very loving to her and she was to them.”

Taylor described the way the mother was with all her children the same way she did the mom and Thomas.

“It was beautiful to see.”

But on the eve of Thomas’s third birthday, just as he had been learning to say “ball” and “go,” the child welfare system that had brought Taylor to the house took her away.

“EIP services will end the day before your child turns three years old,” the New York State Department of Health handbook for the program advises. “A transition plan for your child will be made with your input.”

Whatever the transition may have been, it was almost certainly disrupted the following year, when the father filed for divorce in Nassau County Supreme Court.

The mother who had seemed to Taylor to be so heroic and remarkable somehow lost custody of the three boys to the father who had seemed only interested in doing his own thing. The mother would later say that the father falsely accused her of abuse. She would suggest that she was at an added disadvantage because she was an immigrant from another country.

“Polska,” she said. “Poland.”

One likely factor in the outcome is reflected in a fragment of the court record for matrimonial case 0203503/2015, which is largely sealed in accordance with state law.

“Attorney/Firm For Plaintiff: ORSETTI & CURTI, ESQ. Attorney Type: Retained Atty. Status: Active

227 TREMONT ROAD

Attorney/Firm For Defendant: JUSTYNA VALVA - Prose Attorney Type: Unrepresented”

The father had an attorney. The mother did not. And once she lost custody of the children, she was unable to regain it again. She was able to create the Twitter account StandAgainstChildAbuse in January 2018 and posted what appear to be school documents describing signs of abuse at the home the father had set up with his girlfriend and her three young daughters.

In November 2018, she posted a letter apparently written by a school psychologist, who reports, “Biggest concern is that Mr. Valva and his fiancée Angela do not understand the depth of Anthony and Thomas’s disabilities… Both Anthony and Thomas come into school hungry and frequently say they did not eat breakfast because they did not ask for breakfast or got in trouble.”

The letter added, “The boys were afraid to go to the nurse’s office for a while and they said it was because they were directed by Mr. Valva and Angela not to go to the nurse’s office. This occurred shortly after the school nurse became involved in a CPS case because Thomas has multiple bruises on his bottom from Dad.”

A second apparent school document the mother posted says, “Anthony and Thomas have stated that they were not allowed to eat breakfast because they did not use their manners, say good morning to Angela or were doing nothing. They have come in crying because of this.”

The document goes on, “The boys come in hungry and most days state that they have not eaten breakfast… Both boys were coming in with visible dirt on their bodies for days in a row.”

The postings were accompanied by what the mother termed a“Thanksgiving Wish.” She wrote, “Praying to receive justice for my three little children who are being severely abused mentally and physically by their father and his woman. My children cannot receive any protection, help, and justice.”

She also posted several voice recordings she apparently managed to make while the boys were with the father. He can be heard leading them in chants of “I love daddy!” and “mommy is mean!” and “mommy hits me!” and “mommy, don’t touch me!”

“Louder!” the father commands.

The mother also posted several videos. A Jan. 7, 2018, clip shows one of the boys, apparently Thomas, saying he had been ordered by the father not to hug the mother or tell her he loved her. The mother asks what the father would do if the boy disobeyed.

“Daddy’s going to put me outside,” the boy says.

Another video was taken in a parking lot on Jan. 18, 2018, when the father is delivering the boys for a visit with their mother. The father squeezes the younger boy’s hand so hard he howls.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be back,” the father then says.

n May of last year, another agency, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, sent the mother a report indicating that the agency had received a call from an unidentified tipster on Feb. 27 reporting that “Anthony has been staying in the garage and is not allowed in his room due to him urinating in his bed.”

The outside temperature at the time was in the 30s and low 40s. The report, as first detailed by the New York Post, further advised, “For the past week, Anthony (9) has been coming to school with his clothes and backpack soaked in urine, ... Step mother (Angela) and Father (Michael) are aware that the child is arriving at school soiled and fail to adequately address the concern… The child’s feet and hands are bright red, but it is unknown if this is as a result of the child being soaked in urine.”

The report was accompanied by a letter saying, “'The investigating district/agency has determined the report to be unfounded.”

In the meantime, the mother kept posting on Twitter and going from from judge to judge, from the police to the FBI. She says she warned one judge that her children would die if they were left in the father’s custody. Nothing was done.

The father, using his middle name in calling himself “Michael Gerard,” apparently wasted no time in posting a GoFundMe page seeking funds to cover the funeral.

“It is with great sadness that I must bury my 8-year-old son. He passed recently due to a tragic accident. At this time I am not able to handle these unforeseen costs on my own and if there is any help anyone can provide we would greatly appreciate it. In lieu of floral arrangements we ask that a donation be made instead.”

He collected more than $10,000 from more than 200 donors and added on Jan. 21, “Thank you for your generosity and support. Myself and Angela will be handling the money together and all the funds are going to go towards funeral expenses.”

The recordings also led the detective to believe that the father put an unconscious Thomas in a hot bath to raise his body temperature, which was still only 76 degrees when measured at the hospital.

Pollina’s three daughters, 11-year-old twins and a 6-year-old, all of whom had apparently been treated as well as the stepsisters in Cinderella, were placed in the custody of their father.

One question that might be more fully answered by the sealed court records is exactly why she was initially denied custody and why she continued to be denied despite her pleas and tweets and the school documents and the tipster. At least two state Supreme Court judges, Joseph Lorintz and Hope Schwartz Zimmerman, appear to have made critical rulings.

On Sunday, Zubko-Valva appeared with Anthony and her younger son, Andrew, at a candlelight vigil for Thomas on Long Island.

“I just want to express gratitude to all of you for showing up tonight to honor my little angel Thomas, for being here to support a cause too precious to my heart—to honor his life,” she told the gathering. “Tonight is all about Tommy. My little baby, who just loved everybody … His legacy is not going to stop. I am pledging to continue fighting for all those victims of this abusive system… There are more victims out there. My heart goes out to you, to your families, to the little innocent babies that cannot speak for themselves.”

Anthony also spoke, and if he once had been deemed special needs, he now seemed simply special when most needed.

"We love you all,” the 10-year-old said. “Thank you for coming.”

Andrew, just 6, was equally special.

“God bless Tommy,” he said.

The father and the girlfriend are due in Suffolk County Supreme Court court regarding the murder case on Wednesday. Kim Taylor will be at the wake. She learned of the boy’s death on the TV news. She did not make the connection until she saw the woman who had been such an amazing, loving, and heroic mom back when Thomas learned to say “ball” and “go.”

“Then I knew,” she told The Daily Beast.

Anthony’s funeral Mass is on Friday, paid for by the funeral home. Hundreds of donors have contributed to a legitimate GoFundMe page established for the mother and her surviving boys, some good in response to evil.


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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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29 Jan 2020, 12:29 am

eikonabridge wrote:
Deep down, many people in the forum still consider autism as a disability. And that's one major difference between myself and the rest of the autistic crowd.

There's a difference between what autistic people think of themselves and how the world treats them. It's human nature to pick up social stigma that's out there and internalise difference as abnormality or disability. Much harder to un-couple what has been conditioned over many years.

eikonabridge wrote:
If not because of a whole bunch of autistic people, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and the like, we wouldn't have this country and the freedom that we enjoy today.

Well that's news to me?

eikonabridge wrote:
If other people want to be brainwashed by the neurotypical people, that's their problem. I am not the one looking down on myself.
]

You aren't NT? am I the only one here?



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29 Jan 2020, 12:34 am

CarlM wrote:
Terrible. I don't think the ASD had much to do with it. The father seems to have been very abusive.


First time parents don't have a manual on how to parent a child. It's hard work. It's even harder when the first two children you have are autistic. I think these two parents clearly could not cope and took out their frustration on the poor little boys. It;s a pity they couldn't have the foresight to adopt/foster them.

The man is self-evidently aggressive (in some type of neanderthal way) and needs to face what is coming to him. The woman is equally culpable by her cold lack of empathy for the children's suffering.



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29 Jan 2020, 4:00 am

cyberdad wrote:
CarlM wrote:
Terrible. I don't think the ASD had much to do with it. The father seems to have been very abusive.


First time parents don't have a manual on how to parent a child. It's hard work. It's even harder when the first two children you have are autistic. I think these two parents clearly could not cope and took out their frustration on the poor little boys. It;s a pity they couldn't have the foresight to adopt/foster them.

The man is self-evidently aggressive (in some type of neanderthal way) and needs to face what is coming to him. The woman is equally culpable by her cold lack of empathy for the children's suffering.

This goes beyond the usual parents on their own with no resources and no parenting talent autism fillicide incident that gets posted here where the parent snapped or did it as a mercy killing. The father is a New York City Cop and the kid received services. This was deliberate years long manipulative abuse done not out of frustration but out of pure sadism. While I do not expect the parental sympathy break some parents that kill their autistic kids sometimes get with this case, I don't know if there is anything that society can do to truly give these two what is coming to them.

I do think that the father being a cop and the mother being an immigrant(from Poland) had something to do with the father getting custody and the accusations of abuse being ignored.


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29 Jan 2020, 5:23 am

ASPartOfMe wrote:
cyberdad wrote:
CarlM wrote:
Terrible. I don't think the ASD had much to do with it. The father seems to have been very abusive.


First time parents don't have a manual on how to parent a child. It's hard work. It's even harder when the first two children you have are autistic. I think these two parents clearly could not cope and took out their frustration on the poor little boys. It;s a pity they couldn't have the foresight to adopt/foster them.

The man is self-evidently aggressive (in some type of neanderthal way) and needs to face what is coming to him. The woman is equally culpable by her cold lack of empathy for the children's suffering.

This goes beyond the usual parents on their own with no resources and no parenting talent autism fillicide incident that gets posted here where the parent snapped or did it as a mercy killing. The father is a New York City Cop and the kid received services. This was deliberate years long manipulative abuse done not out of frustration but out of pure sadism. While I do not expect the parental sympathy break some parents that kill their autistic kids sometimes get with this case, I don't know if there is anything that society can do to truly give these two what is coming to them.

I do think that the father being a cop and the mother being an immigrant(from Poland) had something to do with the father getting custody and the accusations of abuse being ignored.


I agree with your points; in addition the authorities failed their children by assuming the NYPD father would make a more suitable parent. Social services lack the capacity to do psychological assessment of both parents but perhaps the birth mother was just as bad.



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29 Jan 2020, 3:07 pm

cyberdad wrote:
ASPartOfMe wrote:
cyberdad wrote:
CarlM wrote:
Terrible. I don't think the ASD had much to do with it. The father seems to have been very abusive.


First time parents don't have a manual on how to parent a child. It's hard work. It's even harder when the first two children you have are autistic. I think these two parents clearly could not cope and took out their frustration on the poor little boys. It;s a pity they couldn't have the foresight to adopt/foster them.

The man is self-evidently aggressive (in some type of neanderthal way) and needs to face what is coming to him. The woman is equally culpable by her cold lack of empathy for the children's suffering.

This goes beyond the usual parents on their own with no resources and no parenting talent autism fillicide incident that gets posted here where the parent snapped or did it as a mercy killing. The father is a New York City Cop and the kid received services. This was deliberate years long manipulative abuse done not out of frustration but out of pure sadism. While I do not expect the parental sympathy break some parents that kill their autistic kids sometimes get with this case, I don't know if there is anything that society can do to truly give these two what is coming to them.

I do think that the father being a cop and the mother being an immigrant(from Poland) had something to do with the father getting custody and the accusations of abuse being ignored.


I agree with your points; in addition the authorities failed their children by assuming the NYPD father would make a more suitable parent. Social services lack the capacity to do psychological assessment of both parents but perhaps the birth mother was just as bad.

Maybe the mother is bad, but so far as noted above the evidence points in the opposite direction


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29 Jan 2020, 7:00 pm

Grand jury indicts NYPD officer and his fiancee for allegedly letting son with autism freeze to death

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Mourners for the 8-year-old Long Island boy who froze to death attended visitation services on Wednesday, the same day a grand jury indicted his father with second-degree murder charges.

The couple were both indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday afternoon, said Austin Manghan, who represented Valva for his criminal court arraignment only. Request for comment from Pollina's attorney Matthew Tuohy was not immediately received.

They are expected in supreme court sometime next week for their arraignments where pleas will be entered.


‘We Beg, We Plead, Protect Our Children’: Suffolk Residents Demand Justice For 8-Year-Old Thomas Valva’s ‘Preventable’ Death
Quote:
Memorial services were being held Wednesday for 8-year-old Thomas Valva, who died of hypothermia last week on Long Island.

Thomas’ mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan she filed “numerous, numerous complaints” over a three-year period.

“That death was preventable,” she said.

he represented herself in the custody battle and said Valva and Pollina convinced CPS and judges that she was unstable. They were granted custody of Zubko-Valva’s three sons, as well as Pollina’s three daughters.

“I think you have somebody in this case who obviously knew how to work the system, how to manipulate, and we have to look at whether there’s some implicit bias there when you’re dealing with a police officer,” Bellone told McLogan.

The message at a rally Wednesday in Mineola near the courthouse was Thomas Valva was in terrible danger — and plenty of people knew it. A review of the case should be unsparing, supporters said.

“This needs to stop now, and if people don’t jump on this movement, something is very wrong. Please, we beg, we plead, protect our children,” Bay Shore resident Gayelynn DeFilippis said.

McLogan reached out to the judges named for their responses, but did not immediately hear back.

Many are demanding the Office of Court Administration review the actions of the Family Court, Supreme Court, and others in the judicial process charged with looking out for Thomas.

“I’d like to get the baseline facts certainly no later than next week and I hope that those facts are going to be forthcoming. And once we get those then we can determine how much further we need to go in terms of investigation,” Suffolk County Legislator Tom Cilmi said.

Both Thomas and his 10-year-old brother, Anthony, were diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

“Please continue praying for my family, for Tommy, for everybody who is affected by this whole situation. Thank you for your kindness,” Zubko-Valva said.

Meanwhile, Valva and Pollina have maintained their innocence. Valva has been stripped of his gun and shield and suspended without pay as the investigation continues.


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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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03 Feb 2020, 6:28 pm

Child-abuse hotline got 17 calls on kids of alleged NYPD killer dad Michael Valva

Quote:
The state’s child-abuse hotline got at least 17 emergency calls about NYPD cop Michael Valva’s kids in the months before he allegedly murdered his autistic, 8-year-old son — but none resulted in the children being taken from Valva and his fiancee, records obtained by The Post show.

And only five of 16 calls — which included a shocking claim that the kids were so hungry they ate out of the trash — were reviewed for more than a day, with four quickly “closed as duplicate,” according to heavily redacted documents compiled by the state Office of Children and Family Services. It was unclear whether the 17th call resulted in a longer review.

One probe stemmed from a call to the state’s 24-hour, child-abuse hotline that revealed victim Thomas Valva had a black eye on Jan. 16, 2019, almost a year to the day before he died of hypothermia from being forced to sleep overnight in an unheated Long Island garage.

The caller who reported Thomas’ swollen and bruised right eye said it didn’t appear injured the previous two days, according to an official narrative.

“The stories were conflicting with contradicting explanations and the time frames were off as to how Thomas sustained this black eye,” the report says.

“There is a history of physicalabuse [sic] in the home involving Thomas so his black eye is suspicious due to the contradicting explanations and conflicting time frames.”

When interviewed by a child-welfare worker, Valva claimed that Thomas “told him he got the black eye at recess,” said he was “unaware” of bruises on his older son’s arm and denied using “physical punishment” against his kids, according to the report.

But even though Valva admitted “using excessive corporal punishment in the past” and school workers were worried that his older son was losing weight, child-welfare officials deemed the abuse allegation over Thomas’ black eye unfounded and took no action, records show.

Safety Factors exist, but do not rise to the level of immediate or impending danger of serious harm,” the report says.

“No Safety Plan/Controlling Interventions are necessary at this time. However, identified Safety Factors have been/will be addressed with the Parent(s)/Caretaker(s) and reassessed.”

Following the report about Thomas’ black eye, the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment hotline logged at least 11 more calls about Valva’s kids through May 14, when a tipster alleged that Valva “squeezed Thomas’ hand in anger” and had thrown a book bag at his head the previous day, leaving a bruise and bump on his forehead, records show.

Valva told a caseworker that the backpack had been thrown by Thomas’ older brother, who’s also autistic, the report says.

“Family is uncooperative as they feel they are being harassed by the school,” the report says.

“They do not want the children to be interviewed at the school and did not allow CW to interview other children.”

An investigation was to continue, the report says, but the outcome is unclear.

On Feb. 27, 2019, a tipster alleged that Thomas’ older brother, who’s also autistic, “has been coming to school with his clothes and backpack soaked in Urine,” leaving him foul-smelling and “extremely cold,” according to a report of the call.

The boy, now 10, “has been staying in the garage and is not allowed in his room due to him urinating in his bed” and his “feet and hands are bright red, but it unknown if this is as a result of the child being soaked in urine,” the tipster added.

The caller also alleged that Valva and Pollina “are aware that the child is arriving at school soiled and fail to adequately address the concern.”

That case was among those “closed as duplicate,” as was another, from March 18 in which a caller claimed that Valva’s kids “are frequently hungry, beg for food, and eat food out of the garbage,” the records show.

Suffolk County last week announced a probe into how its Department of Social Services handled the child-abuse allegations against Valva and Pollina, and DSS Commissioner Frances Pierre on Sunday declined to comment, citing “confidentiality mandates and the nature of this ongoing investigation.”

But a DSS source said Family Court petitions alleging child neglect were filed against Valva and Pollina in 2018 that led to one year of home supervision, orders of protection on the children’s behalf and mandated participation in a “Positive Parenting Program.”

The state OCFS declined to comment.


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07 Feb 2020, 5:49 am

The dad and fiancé were indicted for murder and plead not guilty. New horrific video came out

Trigger Warning
'House of horror': Cameras capture Thomas Valva dragged down stairs, forced into cold garage before death: prosecutors

Quote:
In the final two days of his life, 8-year-old Thomas Valva was allegedly dragged down a staircase by his father’s fiancée in their Center Moriches home, after soiling his pants, and then pushed into the bitterly cold garage—as the fiancee’ sent video links to Thomas’ father, who was out of the house and working as an NYPD police officer.

When the fiancee’ later texted that Thomas was not looking good, with the camera showing him shaking on the garage floor and needing to go to the bathroom, Officer Michael Valva allegedly responded, “F—k the piece of s—t, Thomas. He is not going anywhere.”

These were just some of the new details that came out about the days and weeks leading up to Thomas’ Jan. 17 death, as the NYPD father and his fiancée, Angela Pollina, were formally arraigned on murder charges in Suffolk County Supreme Court.

Both pleaded not guilty.

The boy’s mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva—who lost full custody of her three boys to the father in January 2018 — clutched Thomas’ Mass card, as she listened to the terrible litany of abuses her sons endured.

“Now everybody’s trying to do the right thing, but where were you when I begged you for help? When I could have saved my son’s life,” Zubko-Valva sobbed outside court.

Footage downloaded from a RING app in the Valva/Pollina household led to their arrests.

Prosecutor Kerriann Kelly also revealed that Thomas and his older brother went to school in the fall of 2019 with bruises on their bodies, and Thomas had “hair pulled from his head at the roots.”

“I can’t understand how this could happen, how another human being could do this to their own child,” DA Sini said.

Other information that emerged Thursday morning was brutal, as well.

Prosecutors revealed that ring cameras posted in every room of the large house captured the child abuse atrocities inside.

Kerriann Kelly talked about Pollina allegedly becoming enraged on January 15, when Thomas soiled his pants in his bedroom while his father was at work.

She described Thomas being dragged down a staircase and forced into a cold garage, when the temperature was 19 degrees.

“She took a clip of the freezing children and sent it to Valva at 10:42 pm,” Kelly told Judge William Condon.

Kelly described “Thomas shivering, shaking, holding himself because he needed to go to the bathroom, looking into a camera with pleading eyes for someone to help him.”

Prosecutors said Pollina’s actions were miserably cruel, callous, wanton and evil.

She allegedly showed no compassion when the 8 year old was shivering on the concrete garage floor, they said.

Pollina’s three daughters were also living in the house.

Justyna Zubko-Valva had warned a Nassau County judge nearly three years ago that her boys would die, if they were left in their father’s care.

et while her estranged husband used an attorney to represent him, his wife stood before the judge alone—and angered the court when she repeatedly ignored orders to have the children evaluated by a forensic psychiatrist.

The mother was insisting her children were also being subjected to sexual abuse, something Nassau County police said there was no proof of.

Prosecutors said the two older boys, both diagnosed with autism, went to their new East Moriches school with bruises and wearing pullup diapers.

They would scrounge in the garbage for food to eat.

“The boys were unbearably thin,” the prosecutor noted, “and cried when they were denied food."

Thomas reportedly was drenched with so much urine one time that his sneakers squished.

It’s already been reported teachers in the East Moriches School District made at least 20 calls to the New York State Child Abuse Hotline.

District Attorney Sini said the family’s ‘contact with child welfare agencies is being investigated.

He hinted he may ask a special grand jury to investigate the Thomas Valva case—from the moment the boys were removed from their mother’s care to the minute Thomas died.


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09 Feb 2020, 3:47 am

Monster NYPD cop charged with killing his son kept custody AFTER judge suspected he was beating children

Quote:
The warning signs around NYPD Transit Officer Michael Valva were undeniable: A year’s probation for physically punishing his autistic sons, his continued abuse of the kids despite an agreement to clean up his act, indications the kids were underfed and undernourished.

None of it convinced a Suffolk County Family Court judge to remove the boys from the family’s Center Moriches home, where 8-year-old Thomas was left to freeze to death last month on the concrete floor of their bitterly-cold Long Island garage.

The monstrous Valva, who described the doomed Thomas as a “piece of s--t” in a text message two days before the boy’s Jan. 17 death, retained custody of his three sons despite desperate efforts by their mother, their teachers and school psychologists to find the little boys a safe haven.

Valva, 40, charged with murder in Thomas’ grotesque killing, agreed to a year’s probation — known as an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal — with a March 7, 2018, promise to refrain from “any acts of physical and domestic violence" toward his three sons. He also pledged to attend a parenting skills program.

Though, court records suggest that the cruel Valva’s mistreatment of the boys never ended, Suffolk County Family Court Judge Bernard Cheng left the three boys in their deranged dad’s custody. He was not the only one at fault: Sources indicated visits by Child Protective Services in March 2018, October 2018 and March 2019 all reported no issues inside the suburban house of horrors.

On Feb. 20, 2019, Cheng noted in court that he remained concerned “about a couple of things," starting with an interview one month earlier where 10-year-old autistic Anthony arrived walking bent over at the waist and indicating his backside was sore. The boy also went to school with injuries so severe from beatings that officials needed to ice down the boy’s buttocks and upper thighs.

“He was not able to explain how he got hurt and denied falling,” said Cheng. "He also stated his father told him to say he does not get hit at his house ... Anthony was (also) observed with bruising on his arm in the shape of fingerprints. So the court is concerned with that.”

The judge also referenced what he called “an ongoing thing” with the little boys’ continued weight loss. Cheng noted that Anthony lost six pounds in the month of January, while Thomas gained just four pounds in the 12 months of 2018.

Cheng noted that educators at the boys’ school in East Moriches told investigators that the kids couldn’t concentrate and were looking for food in garbage cans or off the floor. Despite the increasingly-frantic efforts of the boy’s mother Justyna Zubko-Valva, she was never able to regain custody of the kids: Anthony, Thomas and 6-year-old Andrew.

Suffolk Assistant County Attorny Randall Rajti, in the Feb. 20 hearing, objected to further investigation: “These are non-issues.” Cheng disagreed but ultimately declined to take any action.

“The court cannot ignore there are problems going on," said the judge. “Anthony is facing stressors. His deterioration in his level of functioning suggests that his needs are not being met.”

The judge said from the bench that he had to rely on the opinions of the CPS investigators. He insisted he could not change a custody arrangement ordered by another judge - Nassau County matrimonial Judge Hope Zimmerman who gave custody to Michael Valva.

New York courts spokesman Lucian Chalfen insisted the case was handled properly despite its tragic coda.

“As a neglect case, an inordinate amount of time was spent on this case by the judge including ordering three CPS investigations of the father and two physician visits,” said Chalfen. “These are not routine occurrences. Extra attention was paid to this case.”

Another red flag was thrown by Cheng in an April 12, 2019 decision, where the judge noted city schoolteacher Katherine Izzo — a neighbor of Zubko-Valva — testified that Thomas had recounted to her how Valva hit the little boy a dozen times.

Cheng wrote in the same decision that he found the father’s claims of innocence “less than credible,” with the dad’s testimony changing when pressed for details.

But in the end, nothing changed. He denied Zubko-Valva’s bid to regain custody of her kids.

“That is denied,” Cheng said. “You have to learn that once I make a decision that is it.”

Valva and his fiancee Angela Pollina remain jailed without bail for murder in Thomas’ death. They were indicted on Thursday at a hearing where prosecutors recounted how a callous Valva declared “I’ve been through more stressful things than this” after learning his son was dead.

Pollina, who stopped to fix her hair after EMTs arrived to find the lifeless little boy, took about 45 minutes to join Valva at the hospital on the morning of the tragedy,


Link below behind paywall
Hundreds march in memory of 8-year-old Thomas Valva
Quote:
Hundreds gathered Saturday at Heckscher State Park to honor the memory of Thomas Valva, the 8-year-old boy with autism who died of hypothermia last month after being forced to sleep in an unheated garage at his father’s Center Moriches home.

An autism advocacy group organized the East Islip march, which called for legislative action to protect children from similar dangers in the future.

Legislators, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and county Legis. Samuel Gonzalez (D-Brentwood), participated in the “March for Change." Both called for changes on the local and state level to protect children like Thomas.

Priscilla Arena, executive director and founder of Specialized Autism Support & Information in Lake Grove, said in an interview before the march that she had heard stories like Thomas’ “way too many times” and the group felt the time was right for action.

“I can’t stand for it anymore. I had people message me from around the world, on Facebook, telling me ‘I’m living the Valva case. Can you help me?’ This march today is about systematic change,” said Arena, who added she hoped to get as much attention as possible from local, state and federal legislators to push for laws to protect children like Thomas.

Amid cheers of support, Justyna Zubko-Valva, Thomas' mother, said she hoped her son would be remembered as a strong child.

“Tommy was the kind of child who was a fighter,” Zubko-Valva said of Thomas. Despite being diagnosed with autism, Zubko-Valva said her son’s diagnosis “did not restrict him from achieving successes in life and school.”

Holding signs reading “Protect our children from abuse, not the abusers,” “Justice for Thomas," “Stop Parent Alienation” and “We Are Thomas’ Voice,” people said they came to the march because the news of how Thomas died outraged them.

“This has been happening for decades to other children. It’s not just about Tommy, it’s about other children who are still going through it today,” said Dolores Feliciano, a Suffolk County resident.

Michael Carey, who traveled from Albany for the march, said Thomas’ death reminded him of the death of his 13-year-old autistic son, Jonathan Carey. He died in 2007 while being restrained by New York State workers at the now-closed Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center in upstate Niskayuna. Carey has since devoted his time to calling for legislation to protect people with disabilities who are under state care.

“Unless something major happens, abusers will continue to abuse,” Carey said, adding that federal legislation was needed to make it a felony to harm children.


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10 Feb 2020, 8:43 pm

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A boy's life: Thomas Valva remembered as 'playful,' 'sweet' child who loved to draw, sing and dance

Quote:
Thomas Valva was the boy on the scooter, zipping around his Valley Stream condo complex. He loved cars, especially Matchboxes and Hot Wheels. And the surest way to make him smile was to read him a story.

That’s how family and friends remember the 8-year-old boy, whose death has grabbed the attention of many people across the country. Police say his father punished the boy, who had a moderate form of autism, by making him lie overnight on the concrete slab of a subfreezing garage without a blanket or pillow.

Those who knew Thomas said that despite all he went through, he retained his sense of joy and sweetness. He remained, they said, a little boy.

Thomas was always singing and dancing; he was such a ball of joy,” said Ewa Pienkowski of East Meadow, who has known Thomas' mother since they went to college together. 
The boy loved to draw pictures. His mother cherishes them now, especially the ones he did for her. Her favorite: the drawing Thomas gave her of hearts and flowers.
"This is for you Mommy," he told her.

By the time Thomas was 2 years old, he still hadn't started speaking words, which many kids do by their first birthday. He didn't make a lot of eye contact with people, either.
His mother recalled, “It was a mild form of autism, but it was something that needed to be addressed, because when it’s addressed early on, then the child has the biggest chance to make the most improvements.”

That is when Kim Taylor entered his life. A speech pathologist, Taylor worked for a company contracted through the Nassau County Early Intervention program.
Twice a week for about a year, Taylor worked with Thomas at the Valley Stream house. His mother and father were still together then. Thomas had his big brother Anthony, now 10, and a younger one, Andrew, now 6.

Taylor spent a half-hour each trip working with Thomas. They played with blocks, balls, puzzles and picture cards. They clapped together as she sang him songs, she said.

He was a bright, incredible little boy," said Taylor, 56, of Baldwin. "The eye contact was fleeting, but improving."
After about four months of working together, Taylor and Thomas were playing a game where they rolled a ball back and forth between them. At each pass, Taylor would call out "Go." 
Then came a breakthrough. Thomas broke his silence.
"Go," Thomas said.
They both got excited. So did Thomas' mother, who Taylor said sat through every session.
A month later, while playing the same ballgame, came another word.
"Ball."

Thomas was 4 years old when his father moved out of the house in late 2015. The departure hit Thomas hard, according to a 2016 psychological report by neuropsychologist Beryl Nightingale, obtained by Newsday.

He attended The School for Language and Communication Development in Glen Cove, the report said. The school, which serves children with language and autism-related disorders, is now known as Tiegerman Pre-K and Elementary School.

Little things frustrated and upset him, making him cry and throw tantrums, the report said.
"Thomas is currently experiencing significant stress around his parents' separation that is demonstrated in a regression of his behavior," said the report, which was done to determine an appropriate kindergarten setting for Thomas. 

Nightingale also noted that Thomas met the criteria for autism spectrum disorder, with his symptoms falling in the moderate range.

At the time, Thomas was struggling with language, as well as with interacting with his peers in the classroom, Nightingale said.

The school was a breakthrough for Thomas, Zubko-Valva said.
“Once he started attending that school, he started to speak,” she said. “He had excellent teachers who were able to detect all the areas of my son’s development that needed improvement and address it right on the spot."

Amanda Wildman came into Thomas' life in 2017, about a year after the report. She was hired as a nanny and worked for the family for about a year. At the time, Thomas and his brothers were living in Center Moriches with their father and Pollina, who had brought her own three daughters into the household.

At the home of Michael Valva, Thomas was all about his toy cars, and even had a track for them that lit up as the car went around. He was always open to Wildman reading him a story, day or night. They baked cookies together.

At the same time, Thomas was wetting himself, which angered his father and Pollina, Wildman said.
"He would cry, and they would yell at him more," Wildman said. "So he would know not to cry."

The boys shared a bedroom, which had little more than two dressers and a TV, she said. There were few toys in the room, she said.

The boys weren't allowed outside much, and Wildman said she never saw the family take off for a vacation.

Kathy Izzo, a neighbor of Zubko-Valva, recalls the sweet memory of Thomas riding his scooter up and down the sidewalks and across the asphalt of the Valley Stream condo community.

"A boy enjoying himself — nonconfrontational, playful and sweet," said Izzo, a longtime friend of his mother who has known Thomas since his birth in 2011. “Big, big eyes, long lashes, just a sweet spirit."

She recalled how Thomas called her "Cassie" because he couldn’t pronounce the “th” in her name.

She said Zubko-Valva regularly took the boys to the adjoining neighborhood park to play, or around the condo complex on scooters, bikes and child-size play trucks.

Izzo said she testified on Zubko-Valva’s behalf in a court hearing on the custody case. The mother shared with Izzo her worst fears about her estranged husband's treatment of the boys. The two women prayed together, wept together, she said.

Nobody believed her," Izzo said. "He [Valva] made her seem like a crazy woman. It's unreal."

Since Thomas' death, people across Long Island and beyond have come to support Zubko-Valva, pinning Navy blue ribbons to their homes and holding rallies, vigils and fundraisers for the family.

bolding=mine


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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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10 Feb 2020, 8:51 pm

Transcript of prosecutor at Michael Valva, Angela Pollina arraignments

Quote:
By Newsday Staff
February 6, 2020 8:33 PM
WARNING: This transcript contains graphic descriptions of alleged child abuse.

Following is a transcript of the presentation to the judge from Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly, bureau chief of the Homicide Bureau, at the arraignments of Angela Pollina and Michael Valva Thursday in Riverhead.

Angela Pollina arraignment

It is noteworthy that this defendant demanded that Thomas and Anthony Valva ... call her ‘Mommy.’

She screamed and yelled at them as if they were her own children. She attended school events holding herself out as the stepmother of Thomas and Anthony. As such, she owed a duty of care to those boys to protect them from physical harm and to provide them with adequate medical treatment.

Thomas and Anthony were treated miserably. She treated them in a manner that was nothing short of cruel, callous, wanton and evil.

While living in this defendant’s home, the boys were undernourished. They were literally begging for food at school, eating crumbs off of the table, eating out of the garbage cans, going under bleachers in the gym to try to find food. The teachers at the school brought extra food to the school for the children. The teachers repeatedly asked both this defendant and Michael Valva to bring additional food to the school because the children were so hungry. They never did.

While living in this defendant’s home, the boys were forced to sleep, in subfreezing temperatures, on the cement slab in the garage without sheets, pillows, blankets or mattresses. While living with this defendant, the boys went to school with ice-cold hands — cold to the touch — and their cheeks were cold to the touch and they were forbidden to see the school nurse, who would have provided them with additional clothing.

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While living with this defendant, the boys eventually had to wear Pull-Ups to school. That began the second year that they were in the school district. It wasn’t happening initially when they were living with this defendant. But by the second year of living in that school district, those boys had to wear Pull-Ups to school as they soiled themselves in fear of her and their father, Michael Valva.

While living in this defendant’s home, the children were locked in their bedrooms and denied access to the bathroom. When they soiled themselves, they were punished by being forced to sleep in the garage.

While living in this defendant’s home, the children were physically assaulted, including an occasion where this defendant first threw and dragged Thomas down the stairs. Notably, two nights before Thomas died, he found himself banished to the garage once again. Nest video throughout the home, which was placed there by this defendant and Michael Valva, showed Thomas shaking in the freezing cold air and clearly exhibiting signs that he needs to use the bathroom in 19-degree weather. Angela showed Thomas and Anthony no compassion or kindness. Instead, she took a clip of the freezing children from the Nest video and sent it to Michael Valva, who was at work at the time. It was timestamped Jan. 15, 2020, at 10:42 p.m. And then there was an exchange of text messages between this defendant and Michael Valva.

Angela Pollina: I’m going to sleep. I tried calling you to see what you’re doing with Thomas in the morning. If you meant for real he’s not going to school, I need to leave here the second the bus comes.

Michael Valva: I have zero clothing for him. [Expletive] the piece of [expletive] Thomas. He’s not going anywhere.

Valva, 10 minutes later: Gee, seems like he has to go. If only he had a bathroom.

And a little while later, this defendant: Seriously, if only he had a bathroom.

At 1:06 a.m., now the early morning hours of Jan. 16, 2020, Angela downloads video of the boys in the garage in the freezing cold. This was just a day and a half before Thomas died of hypothermia.

Your honor, we have evidence that this defendant knew what hypothermia is. Hypothermia occurs when you are left in the cold for a prolonged period of time. It is a prolonged exposure to cold that causes a low body temperature that slows brain activity, and eventually causes the body’s organs to shut down, which is what happened to 8-year-old Thomas Valva at the hands of this defendant and her co-defendant Michael Valva.

This defendant did nothing to help Thomas Valva. She only hurt him physically and psychologically.

When the EMTs arrived at their home in the early morning of January 17 of 2020, the morning of this 8-year-old child’s death, this defendant stood in the bathroom fixing her hair as Thomas’ ice-cold lifeless body lay on the floor. And she said: ‘You’re leaving now for the hospital. I’ll be there a little later.’ It took her about 45 minutes before she arrived at the hospital.

The evidence of this defendant’s depravity and failure to perceive the grave risk of serious physical injury or death that she caused Thomas Valva is overwhelming. Accordingly, and inasmuch as she faces the rest of her life in jail for what she has done, I respectfully request that this defendant be remanded at this time.

Michael Valva arraignment


This defendant was a New York City police officer at the time that he killed his son. As a police officer, he took an oath to serve and protect the citizens of New York City at large. However, as a parent to Thomas, as well as to Anthony, he had a duty to protect his children from physical harm and provide them with adequate medical treatment.

The evidence in this case will show the defendant failed Thomas and Anthony miserably, instead treating them in a manner that was nothing short of cruel, callous, wanton and evil.

Thomas was and Anthony is autistic but high-functioning. As described by employees of the school district they were in at the time of Thomas’ death, they were sweet and loving children.

Unfortunately, the defendant did not see his children in the same light. The defendant gained full custody of the boys on or about September 2017 over the strenuous objection of their biological mother. Almost immediately upon the start of the school year in 2017 and throughout the time the boys spent in the East Moriches school district, the boys presenting at school hungry, having been deprived of breakfast as a punishment if they failed to use their words or to call Angela, this defendant’s girlfriend/fiancee, ‘Mommy.’ The children took to eating crumbs off tables, pulling uneaten food out of the garbage and taking food from other children. For children who should have been gaining weight as they grew taller, in one year’s time, Anthony lost 20 pounds. And Thomas gained only one.

The boys were unbearably thin and cried if denied food. The defendant and his co-defendant, his girlfriend Angela Pollina, were asked to send in more food for these growing boys but they never did.

And the boys were weighed by the school district and that is how we know the boys were not thriving as they should have been.

The defendant and Angela not only deprived these boys of food as punishment, they made them sleep on a concrete slab floor in the garage of their home without a mattress, without sheets, without blankets and without even adequate clothing to try and keep them warm.

The children were sent off to school freezing cold. Their hands and cheeks were bright red and icy cold to the touch, confirmed by teachers from the East Moriches school district.

Anthony would insist on keeping his jacket on in what was described as a very warm classroom and even sitting in the sun in his classroom did not do anything to prevent his coldness. Thomas cried and protested against going out for recess because he did not want to be even colder if he went outside.

School employees would provide extra clothing for the boys, an act of kindness that was forbidden by his father, Michael Valva, and the co-defendant, Angela Pollina, and had to be done secretly so as to avoid any further punishment of the boys. By their second year in the school district, both boys were wearing Pull-Ups to school. They often came to school so soiled that school employees could smell urine and feces about their bodies. Thomas came to school so soiled one day that the urine was swishing in his sneakers. They would wait for extended periods of time for this defendant or Angela to bring clean clothes up to the school.

Anthony and Thomas were likely subjected to physical punishment. They were slapped and punched and carried by the wrist with their feet not touching the floor. Thomas was thrown and dragged down a flight of stairs. The boys would arrive at school with scratches, bruises and cuts. And Thomas in particular with a hand mark on his bottom, which he indicated to school officials was inflicted by his father, this defendant Michael Valva.

In the early fall of 2019, Thomas had a bump, a bruise and hair pulled from his head at the root. In mid November of 2019, both Anthony and Thomas came to school with bruises all over their faces and varying explanations from the children and their father, this defendant, as to how they were sustained.

Thomas and Anthony were further described at this time as fragile and pale. In the beginning, the boys did report who physically hurt them, deprived them of food and use of the bathroom and made them sleep in the garage. Eventually, though, they were coached to make up stories as to how they were hurt and what their living conditions were. Anthony repeatedly stated to detectives once these defendants were placed under arrest: ‘He sleeps in his bed and he stays in his room. He sleeps in his bed and he stays in his room. He sleeps in his bed and stays in his room.’

On the last day of his life, Thomas’ father, this defendant, called 911, claiming that Thomas had fallen on the driveway while waiting for the school bus. He subsequently told an EMT that Thomas ran into a door frame. The defendant changed that story a few times depending on who he spoke to that morning. But the bottom line was, he lied in an effort to protect himself and Angela from discovery of the house of horrors that Thomas and Anthony lived in and that Thomas sadly died in.

Nest cameras in nearly every room of the house were in part the defendant and Angela’s undoing. Suffolk County Police Department’s EIS would ultimately download the video and audio from those Nest cameras — even though as they did so, a simultaneous effort was made to delete the video and the audio. And the password that Angela had previously provided to police was changed. Fortunately, enough was captured by police to document the abuse Thomas and Anthony were subjected to, as I have just outlined for you, your honor.

The video includes the defendant beating one of his children with a closed fist while screaming at him. The two boys sitting Indian-style on the cement garage floor in the dark. The two boys standing at attention in the garage. Thomas begging to be let out of his room to use the bathroom. Two nights before Thomas’ death, the two boys sleeping on the garage floor, in what appeared to be nothing more than pajamas. Thomas shivering and shaking and holding himself because he needed to use the bathroom, looking into the Nest camera with pleading eyes for someone to help him.

It was 19 degrees that night, according to the National Weather Service. And your honor, the Nest camera in that garage was labeled the kids’ room.

And that video that I just discussed is the video that was the subject of the exchange of text messages that very same night while this defendant was employed as a New York City police officer and went off to work that night and Angela saw fit to send him videos of the children freezing in the garage.

Your honor, Thomas was dead as a result of hypothermia two mornings later. Upon his arrival at the hospital, he had an internal temperature of 76.1. According to the medical examiner, that temperature is consistent with the fourth and most life-threatening stage of hypothermia, a condition caused by long exposure to cold, causing a low body temperature that slows brain activity and eventually causes the body’s organs to shut down, just as they did for Thomas Valva.

Audio captured from the morning Thomas died, Jan. 17, 2020, further demonstrates this defendant’s depravity and the strength of the people’s case. You can hear Angela and this defendant in the kitchen and the garage door repeatedly opened and closed. Thomas was in the garage again and could not stand up. And again, he had an accident. This defendant was heard yelling: ‘[Expletive] moron. I told him to stand up. Wash yourself. What does he do? He head dives into the [expletive] concrete.’

One of the other children asked why Thomas couldn’t stand up. Then a child was heard saying that Thomas can’t even walk. Angela explained that Thomas is hypothermic, saying that is what happens when you’re freezing and being washed with cold water when it’s freezing outside. This defendant then told Angela that Thomas face-planted twice in the garage. Red stains in the garage that are still to be tested by the lab and injuries to Thomas’ face are consistent with that statement. There are no similar red stains on the driveway or on any door frame of the house. After the other children got on the bus, this defendant said: ‘This stupid [expletive] [expletive] fell head first into the concrete twice. He’s got two gigantic lumps on his head.’

Angela then asked why he fell. This defendant then replied: ‘Cuz he was cold. Boo-[expletive]-hoo. Now he’s a bloody [expletive] mess.’

Angela expresses no concern other than the defendant not yell so loud so that neighbors can’t hear.

It is clear that, this defendant’s lies notwithstanding, Thomas never made it out of that garage that morning. When the police and the EMTs arrived at the house, after the defendant finally called 911, Thomas was icy cold to the touch and not breathing. He was naked, except for a pair of sweatpants pulled down below his knees.

He was never able to be revived and was ultimately pronounced at the hospital and an EMT who arrived at the scene indicated there were no blankets. There was no covering whatsoever on that child. When asked if he needed anything at the hospital after his son was ultimately pronounced, the defendant replied: ‘I’ve been through more stressful things than this.’

Your honor, ignoring warnings about his son’s physical condition, subjecting him to corporal punishment, punishing him in the most inhumane of ways: The evidence of this defendant’s depravity is overwhelming.


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IsabellaLinton
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10 Feb 2020, 10:33 pm

OMG



CockneyRebel
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11 Feb 2020, 1:55 am

That monster should be given life in prison.


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EzraS
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11 Feb 2020, 2:50 am

I have read a lot of testimony from school staff describing obvious abuse and neglect over a substantial period of time - and I keep wondering where CPS (child protection services) was. Did no one alert CPS? Or did CPS not respond properly?