CENTER MORICHES, Long Island (WABC) -- Hundreds came together at a candlelight vigil to mourn an 8-year-old boy allegedly murdered by his father and his father's fiancee on Long Island, as the investigation into his death continues.
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 on Friday, January 17, and was later pronounced dead at Long Island Community Hospital.
Authorities alleged his father, 42-year-old NYPD Officer Michael Valva, frequently abused the boy and forced him and his 10-year-old brother Anthony to sleep in the garage in frigid temperatures without blankets or pillows.
"Thomas Valva was subjected to freezing temperatures in the home's unheated garage overnight when the outside temperature was 19 degrees," said Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, adding that the boy's temperature was just 76 degrees when he arrived at the hospital.
Michael Valva and 42-year-old Angela Pollina are now charged with second-degree murder with depraved indifference to human life, and both have pleaded not guilty.
The Suffolk County Department of Social Services confirmed previous contact with the family after allegations of child neglect. Safeguards were put in place, and Commissioner Frances Pierre said a full investigation is underway to ensure protocols were followed.
Pierre issued the following statement:
"The Department of Social Services is heartbroken by the passing of Thomas Valva. Department personnel are continuing to provide all available information on this matter to law enforcement and will continue to cooperate fully throughout the investigation. Suffolk County Child Protective Services has had involvement with the Valva/ Pollina family. Petitions for child neglect were filed in Suffolk County Family Court in 2018. Safeguards ordered to protect the children included court-ordered home supervision for a period of one year, Orders of Protection for the parents to refrain from harmful behaviors towards the children and mandated participation in a Positive Parenting Program had been put in place. Subsequent to the expiration of the order of protection, CPS investigated additional complaints relating to the family. DSS is formally reviewing the management of the case to ensure that all protocols were followed in accordance with the law. Due to confidentiality mandates and the nature of this ongoing investigation, the Department cannot comment further at this time."
Police say Michael Valva had called 911 and said his son had fallen in the 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.
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 Anthony sleeping on the garage floor, shivering.
Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe said during the arraignment of Valva and Pollina late Friday that audio files recovered from the home recorded the couple discussing the fact that the child was suffering from hypothermia, had been washed with cold water, couldn't walk and was "face-planting" on the concrete on the morning he was killed.
Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini said he had listened to the audio himself.
"I can't describe it in words," he said. "The depravity of these defendants is shocking."
The child's mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, said her son was a happy boy who loved playing outside. She said the abuse was prevalent.
"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."
Viewings will be held Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Mangano Family Funeral Home on Deer Park Avenue in Deer Park. A funeral will be held at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church on Wolf Hill Road in Melville, with burial to follow at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.
Authorities are still investigating whether a 6-year-old brother was also abused, and if Pollina's three children -- 11-year-old twins and 6-year-old -- had suffered any abuse. The children are now at a safe location.
The defense denied the accusations, calling them pure speculation and maintaining Valva's innocence. He was remanded without bail.
Valva, who joined the NYPD in 2005 and is assigned to transit, has been suspended without pay, the department said.
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Vigil held to remember boy who apparently froze in Long Island garage