A New York Police Department cop, who is facing second-degree murder charges after allegedly forcing his young son to sleep overnight in the frigid garage of his Long Island home, tried to portray the image of a wholesome family, according to the family’s former nanny.
Amanda Wildman told People she believed Michael Valva and his fiancée Angela Pollina, who is also facing second-degree murder charges in the freezing death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva, wanted people to believe they were like “The Brady Bunch.”
Valva had three sons from a previous marriage; Pollina had three daughters.
“I felt like they wanted to be this large, perfect family and it was like they wanted the big house, the big family, the happy life,” Wildman told the outlet. “But Angela didn’t want nothing to do with those boys.”
Wildman said that during her time working for the family, from 2017 to 2018, she witnessed Pollina verbally abusing the six children who lived in the home, but never saw any physical abuse.
Michael Valva and Pollina are accused of forcing Thomas, who had autism, to sleep in the family’s unheated garage with his 10-year-old brother. The boy died of hypothermia on Jan.17.
Thomas died despite repeated calls to an abuse hotline to report suspected abuse in the home. According to records obtained by The New York Daily News, Thomas’ teachers had called a state abuse hotline about 20 times reporting that Thomas and his 10-year-old brother Anthony arrived at school hungry, had signs of physical abuse and had even brought urine-soaked backpacks in one instance.
“Anthony and Thomas have stated they were not allowed to eat breakfast because they did not use their manners,” special education teacher Nicole Papa wrote in a letter filed in court, according to the news outlet. “Both boys were coming into school with visible dirt on their bodies for days in a row.”
Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn told local station WCBS that she was “committed to getting to the bottom of the facts of this case” to help improve the system.
Michael Valva had reportedly gained custody of his three sons in 2017 after a heated custody battle.
The boys’ mother Justyna Zubko-Valva had posted audio of her boys on social media seemingly being coached to provide information that their mother was abusive; however, a judge declined to enter the tape into evidence, WCBS reports.
On the tape a male voice can be heard asking “Who do you love? Who do you want to stay with? Who do you miss? Who do you want to live with?”
The children respond “Daddy and Angela” after each question is asked.
Then the male said, “Mommy is mean. Mommy hits me. Mommy don’t touch me,” and the children repeat the phrase.
In another audio clip, Andrew talks about Michael’s alleged efforts to alienate the children from their mother, according to The New York Times.
“Daddy says to me that I can’t listen to you and I can’t hug you and I can’t say, ‘I love you, Mommy’ and ‘I miss you, Mommy,’” Andrew said in audio posted on social media in January 2018.
After his mother asks why, Andrew responds, “Daddy’s going to put me outside.”
Suffolk County began an investigation into the case last week.
“Our agency will review Suffolk County’s casework and will issue any recommendations for improvement or corrective actions based upon our findings. We will also review the county’s investigation into the handling of this case,” Monica Mahaffey, a spokeswoman for the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, told The Times.
After hearing of Thomas’ death, Wildman said she immediately contacted police to tell them what she knew about the family.
“I knew the detectives had a lot of insight about the outside of their life, but I was inside of it,” she told People.
She said she only wished child protective services had intervened before Thomas died.
“The fact that [abuse] was reported a year ago and now we are, a year later, talking about the same way he died is heart-wrenching and I just wish CPS had something,” she said. “Just because someone’s an NYPD officer doesn’t mean we trust their judgment.”
The NYPD told Oxygen.com in a statement that Michael Valva has been suspended in light of the allegations.
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