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Ex-NYPD Cop's 'Evil Acts' In Autistic Son's Freezing Death Leads To Murder Conviction
Michael Valva was found guilty of abusing his son, Thomas Valva, 8, who froze to death after being hosed down and left to sleep in an unheated garage in the winter.
A Long Island man charged with the freezing death of his 8-year-old son was found guilty of murder and other charges.
Former NYPD police officer Michael Valva, 43, was convicted on Friday of second-degree murder, the most severe of multiple charges pertaining to the death of his son, Thomas Valva, according to ABC New York affiliate WABC-TV.
Valva and his former fiancée, Angela Pollina — who has yet to face trial — were accused of subjecting Thomas and his brother to years of horrific abuse before exiling the autistic child to the unheated garage of Pollina’s Center Moriches home, where the Valvas lived.
On Jan. 16, 2020, Valva made his son strip out of his clothes after the boy soiled himself and hosed him down before Thomas endured 16 hours without so much as a blanket to keep him warm. Home video and audio captured Valva profanely berating his son as he shivered in the cold and struggled to walk, finally “face-planting” onto the concrete floor.
Thomas died the next day after succumbing to hypothermia.
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray A. Tierney called the case “heartbreaking” following Friday’s verdict, which came after seven hours of deliberations.
“Today, the jury has spoken on the tragic murder of Thomas Valva by his father, the defendant, Michael Valva,” Tierney stated. “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.”
Valva, who was also found guilty of four counts of child endangerment, now faces 25 years to life behind bars, according to NBC News.
Thomas Valva’s death shed light on the alleged failures of Suffolk County officials who failed to remove the victim and his 10-year-old brother — who was also on the autism spectrum — from the home, despite years of child abuse allegations. During the six-week trial, school teachers and faculty members testified to calling Child Protective Services (CPS) to report multiple instances of suspected abuse.
Such instances included the Valva brothers showing up to school with urine in their shoes and backpacks, eating discarded food from garbage cans and crumbs off the floor, and appearing “extremely emaciated,” sometimes with bruises.
The state’s child abuse hotline received no less than 17 emergency calls about the Valva boys in the months leading to Thomas’s death, according to the New York Post.
Valva’s defense attorney, John LoTurco, agreed his client should be found guilty of the lesser endangerment charges but reminded jurors that to convict Valva of second-degree murder, they’d have to believe there was “depraved indifference” in his actions, according to the New York Times.
“You’d have to believe that he had utter disregard for Thomas’s life; that he simply did not care whether Thomas would die,” said LoTurco. “And that’s absolutely not true.”
LoTurco said Valva was not a “cold-blooded monster” or a “werewolf with no love in his heart,” as portrayed by the prosecution, according to the New York Times.
Suffolk County Prosecutor Kerriann Kelly maintained in her closing arguments Thursday that Valva indeed acted with depraved indifference and possessed “an utter, complete disregard for the life of his child.”
Throughout the trial and in Kelly’s closing arguments, prosecutors reiterated that Valva failed to help his son as he died.
After responders were dispatched to the Bittersweet Lane address, Valva claimed his son became unresponsive following a fall in the shower — as revealed in his call to 911. By omitting relevant information from medical personnel, prosecutors claimed Valva prevented doctors from treating his son for hypothermia, which could have saved his life. Instead, they initially treated Thomas for a head injury.
Thomas’s internal body temperature was only 76.1 degrees when he arrived at the hospital.
In their closing arguments, Kelly showed the jury a photo of Thomas in the morgue, which, according to the New York Times, showed “his dark eyelashes standing out against his snow-white skin.”
“This case is heartbreaking, and it has been one of the toughest child abuse trials for our prosecutors, court personnel, and jurors,” District Attorney Tierney continued in his statement. “No child should ever have to endure such evil acts.”
Tierney added Valva “will now pay for cutting short the life of a young, innocent, defenseless boy who had a lifetime ahead of him.”
Tierney could not comment further, citing the upcoming trial of Angela Pollina.
Valva will be formally sentenced on Dec. 8, according to New York’s WNBC.