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Mom Of Boy Who Froze To Death After Allegedly Being Forced By Father To Sleep In Garage Says Warnings Went Unanswered
Michael Valva, a New York City police officer, is accused of killing his son by forcing him to spend a frigid night in an unheated garage while temperatures plunged to 19 degrees.
The mother of a young boy who died after his NYPD officer father allegedly forced him to sleep in an icy garage claims her warnings about her ex-husband had been ignored.
Justyna Zubko-Valva claims no one took her repeated warnings about Michael Valva, 40, seriously until her son Thomas, an 8-year-old boy with autism, died last month. The mom lost custody of her children to Valva amid divorce proceedings in 2017.
The New York Times reported that warnings from both Zubko-Valva and other people in Thomas' life were ignored; at least a dozen calls had come into child protective service hotlines over the last two years about Thomas and his two brothers allegedly being mistreated by Valva.
“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," a spokeswoman for the New York State Office of Children and Family Services told the Times.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone previously announced county officials would investigate how its Department of Social Services handled allegations against Valva, according to The New York Post.
“As a parent, I am horrified by what happened to this beautiful boy,” Bellone said. “As county executive, I want to know if there’s 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.”
Zubko-Valva, a corrections officer for Rikers Island, was given temporary custody of her two surviving sons following Valva's arrest, the New York Post reported late last month.
Valva and his fiancée Angela Pollina, 42, are charged with second-degree murder in Thomas' death. Police allege Valva forced Thomas and his 10-year-old brother Anthony to sleep with no mattress or blanket in the family's unheated garage on a January night that saw the temperature dip to just 19 degrees. Thomas died two days later, with a body temperature of just 76 degrees at the time of his death, according to the Times.
Video surveillance seized by law enforcement from the home allegedly shows Valva callously mocking his 8-year-old son, attributing his inability to stand or walk to the chilly temperatures he'd endured.
"[H]e's cold, boo-f--king hoo," Valva allegedly said.
An attorney for Pollina has insisted his client is not guilty, while the New York City Police Department told Oxygen.com in a statement that Valva has been suspended without pay.
“I can stand in front of God and say I honestly tried everything,” Zubko-Valva tearfully told the Times in an interview. “Tommy is not alive anymore, and there are so many people who are responsible for his death.”