In the middle of winter, 8-year-old Thomas Valva froze to death after being hosed down and forced to sleep in the garage of his Long Island home. The boy’s father, 43-year-old former NYPD police officer Michael Valva, may now spend the rest of his days behind bars after a New York judge sentenced him to 25 years to life.
Following prosecutors’ argument that Valva knowingly forced Thomas and his 10-year-old brother to sleep on a concrete floor in their home’s unheated garage, a Suffolk County jury convicted him of one second-degree murder charge and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child last month. Even though the temperature had dropped below 20 degrees, the two boys had been hosed down with freezing water before being locked in the garage for soiling the bed.
The boy, who had autism, died from cardiac arrest brought on by hypothermia at Long Island Community Hospital on Jan. 20, 2020. At the time of his arrival at the medical facility, he had a body temperature of 76 degrees.
At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, which was live-streamed by News12, Valva apologized for his actions and said he loved Thomas with all his heart.
“I am truly sorry, I am ashamed, I am heartbroken and grief stricken standing before you having contributed to the death of my son Thomas. I loved Thomas with all my heart,” Valva said. “My actions were neglectful and abusive to my boys, resulting in the tragic death of Thomas. I lost focus on how to be a good father. I was so wrong and it cost Thomas his life.”
According to the presiding judge, Thomas and his brother “lived their young lives under constant duress in a place where they should have felt safest: their own home.”
“We can never let this happen again,” the judge declared.
Following a five-week trial, Valva’s conviction was reached after seven hours of deliberation.
“This case is heartbreaking, and it has been one of the toughest child abuse trials for our prosecutors, court personnel and jurors,” Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said after Valva’s conviction. “No child should ever have to endure such evil acts.”
In a previous story, it was reported that Valva initially claimed the death of his son was an accident. Thomas told investigators that he fell while trying to catch up with the school bus, but police didn’t believe him. It was determined that the 8-year-old’s head and facial injuries were inconsistent with the defendant’s version of events.
Valva had custody of his three sons, ages six, eight, and ten, at the time of the murder. Former fiancée Angela Pollina had three daughters: a 6-year-old and twin 11-year-olds.
According to prosecutors, Thomas had been locked in the garage without heat for approximately 16 hours before he succumbed to the brutal conditions. Apparently, both of the children were punished by being sent to the garage when they accidentally urinated and defecated inside.
Valva and Pollina reportedly abused the two boys physically, verbally, and emotionally for months prior to Thomas’ death, according to prosecutors.
“I will beat them until they bleed,” the defendant texted Polina about disciplining the boys, the New York Daily News reported. “It is the only thing that works.”
Moreover, prosecutors claimed that the boys were starved and were seen eating crumbs from the floor at school.
“While there is nothing that we can do to bring Thomas back, we are satisfied with the jury’s decision,” Defense Attorney Tierney said. “Michael Valva subjected his sons to horrific abuse, neglect and cruelty. He will now pay for cutting short the life of a young, innocent, defenseless boy who had a lifetime ahead of him.”
Angela Pollina, 45, was also charged with second-degree murder and child endangerment in Thomas’ death. Since her initial arrest, she has been held without bond and has pleaded not guilty. There is no set date for her trial.