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‘Nothing Short Of Evil’: Ex-NYPD Cop Sentenced For Abused Son’s Freezing Death
Michael Valva said he was "truly sorry" for making his autistic son, Thomas, sleep in an unheated garage as temperatures dipped into the teens. Home surveillance video showed the police officer taunting his son when he could no longer stand on his own.
A former police officer convicted of horrifically murdering his 8-year-old son will spend no less than 25 years behind bars.
Michael Valva, 45, was found guilty in November of second-degree murder and other charges for the January 2020 death of his son, Thomas, who was banished to the garage of the family’s Long Island home and left to die in frigid temperatures.
On Thursday, Valva was sentenced to 25 years to life, according to CBS New York City affiliate WCBS-TV.
At the Suffolk County courthouse in Riverhead, New York, Valva spoke just before Judge William Condon handed down the maximum term.
“I am truly sorry,” said Valva. “I did not want my son to die. I never imagined he would have died. However, I lost my way.”
Per Fox New York City affiliate WNYW, Valva added, “I have already sentenced myself to a lifetime of extreme regret, remorse, and grief.”
Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Keriann Kelly compared Valva’s sentence to the suffering endured by Thomas, per WCBS-TV.
“Thomas lived as a prisoner, given a death sentence that was executed, while this defendant will have [a] cell with a bed and a blanket and a pillow and heat,” said Kelly.
Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney said the child abuse sustained by Thomas and his then-10-year-old brother, Anthony, was “one of the most difficult and heartbreaking cases” he’s endured during his three decades as a prosecutor.
“The torture that killed Thomas and endangered Anthony’s welfare was nothing short of evil,” said Tierney. “Thankfully, the story of this defendant ends here, but the pursuit of justice and Anthony continues.”
Also charged in connection with Thomas’s murder is Michael Valva’s former fiancée, Angela Pollina, who owned the Center Moriches home where Thomas died.
Like Valva, Pollina pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and four misdemeanor charges of child endangerment. She has yet to face trial, which is scheduled to begin on Feb. 21, 2023.
Valva was accused of making his son undress and then hosing him down on Jan. 16, 2020, as a form of punishment when Thomas soiled himself, often the result of being denied access to the toilet. The child was then forced into an unheated garage, where he stayed for 16 hours without adequate bedding or clothing to keep him warm.
That night, temperatures dipped into the teens.
During the trial, which began in September, prosecutors presented home surveillance video where Valva could be seen mocking the boy. Footage showed Thomas unable to walk and was observed “face-planting” the concrete floor of the garage.
“He’s cold,” Valva said to Pollina in response to Thomas’s deteriorating condition. “Boo f***ing hoo.”
On the morning of Jan. 17, 2020, Valva, an NYPD officer, phoned Suffolk County police and reported his son had hit his head after running into a doorframe.
Prosecutors alleged that by Valva withholding information from medical personnel – who initially treated Valva for a head injury – he prevented them from performing measures that could have potentially saved Thomas’s life.
When Thomas was admitted to the hospital, his internal body temperature was just 76.1 degrees.
One after the other, teachers and staff with the East Moriches School District took the stand in Valva’s murder trial, testifying they’d called the state emergency hotline nearly 20 times to report the boys’ suspected abuse. Instances included Thomas and Anthony – both of whom were autistic – eating discarded food items and crumbs off the school floor.
The Valva brothers showed up to class with multiple injuries in the months preceding Thomas’ death and often came with urine-soaked backpacks or sneakers “squishing” from their urine.
Thomas’s death shed a harsh light on the alleged failures of Suffolk County’s Child Protective Services, prompting an investigation and calls for reform.
Judge William Condon, who’d sentenced Valva on Thursday, addressed the lack of intervention, as reported by WCBS-TV.
“How did all of us, as a community, allow this to happen?” asked Condon. “We can never let this happen again.”
In 2020, Thomas and Anthony’s biological mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva – who claimed that Valva’s position with the NYPD aided him in winning custody of the boys – filed a $200 million wrongful death suit against multiple parties, according to court documents reviewed by Oxygen.com.
In June, despite motions by seven CPS employees and the Suffolk County Department of Social Services to have the case thrown out, a federal judge ruled that civil proceedings could move forward, according to Newsday.
Zubko-Valva was not in the courtroom for Valva’s sentencing.
“We will continue to do everything in our power to hold those responsible for the torture and abuse of these children and also to ensure that Suffolk County has proper safeguards in place to prevent a case like this from ever happening again,” said District Attorney Tierney, according to NBC New York City affiliate WNBC.
Tierney thanked the work of his prosecutor as well as the Suffolk County Police Department.