NYPD officer father, fiancee arrested in death of 8-year-old Long Island boy

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Saturday, January 25, 2020
NYPD officer father, fiancee arrested in death of 8-year-old Long Island boy
Kristin Thorne has the latest details on an NYPD officer and his fiancee charged in the death of an 8-year-old on Long Island.

CENTER MORICHES, Long Island (WABC) -- An NYPD officer and his fiancee have been charged in the death of his 8-year-old son on Long Island, accused of abusing the boy and leaving him in freezing temperatures in the garage.

Thomas Valva, a third-grader at East Moriches Elementary School who had autism, was found unresponsive at his home on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches last Friday and was later pronounced dead at Long Island Community Hospital.

"Thomas Valva was subjected to freezing temperatures in the home's unheated garage overnight when the outside temperature was 19 degrees," Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said.

On Friday, investigators arrested 40-year-old Michael Valva and his fiancee, 42-year-old Angela Pollina, and charged them with second-degree murder.

Police say Michael Valva had called 911 and said his son had fallen in driveway while waiting for the school bus, and was unconscious. When police arrived, Valva was performing CPR on Thomas in the basement.

"We determined Thomas was never in the driveway that morning, and he suffered head and facial injuries that were not consistent with the father's account," Hart said.

Authorities now believe the boy had been left in the garage, and they say his body temperature was just 76 degrees when he got to the hospital. He also had facial and head injuries, according to officials.

Police made the arrest after reviewing home security surveillance video, and prosecutors say each room of the house had a camera that was labeled. They said the camera in the garage was low to the ground and pointed toward the floor with the label "the kids room."

They said video from the two previous nights showed Thomas and his 10-year-old brother Anthony sleeping on the garage floor without pillows and blankets, shivering.

"Nobody did anything," the boy's mother Justyna Zuubko-Valva, said. "I tried, I fought so hard to, you know, fought for justice for my children...It shouldn't get to the point that, you know, my son lost his life to actually for somebody to do something."

Authorities say Thomas and his 10-year-old brother were often deprived of food and exposed to unsafe conditions. They are still investigating whether a 6-year-old brother was also abused, and they are also looking into whether Child Protective Services was notified of abuse.

The defense denied the accusations, calling them pure speculation and maintaining Valva's innocence. He was remanded without bail.

Pollina has three children, 11-year-old twins and 6-year-old, and police are investigating whether the alleged abuse extended to all children.

"We are going to look at every interaction that this child had with the system, and we're going to follow through and make sure we investigate every avenue," Hart said. "I have been in constant contact with the commissioner of the Department of Social Services, we're working closely together to make sure we're investigating every avenue and every contact this family had with services."

All five children are now at a safe location.

"We continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Thomas Valva," school Superintedent Dr. Charles Russo said in a statement. "Thomas was a tender, loving boy who made tremendous gains during the short time he was a student in East Moriches. While the district legally cannot comment on any specific case, it aggressively reports to the proper authorities child abuse when it is suspected. The district will continue to cooperate with the Suffolk County Police Department as they continue with their investigation."

Michael Valva had created a GoFundMe page to raise money for funeral costs, saying his son had died in a tragic accident, with more than $14,000 donated.

That page has since been taken down.


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