N.Y.P.D. officer charged with murder of Autistic son

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CarlM
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15 May 2021, 8:33 pm

The Pretrial hearing is underway: Thomas Valva Case: Ex-NYPD Officer Michael Valva, Former Fiancée Angela Pollina Appear In Court For Pre-Trial Hearing


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18 May 2021, 4:45 pm

Thanks Carl, as I shall keep an eye out on how this plays out.


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22 Jun 2022, 8:11 am

Mother of Autistic 8-Year-Old Boy Who Froze to Death in His Father’s Garage Can Press $200M Lawsuit Against CPS Officials and School, Judge Rules

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The mother of an 8-year-old who froze to death in his father’s garage can press her $200 million lawsuit against child protective services officials, the boy’s school, the county and others, a federal judge ruled.

On Jan. 17, 2020, Suffolk County man Michael Valva and his girlfriend Angela Pollina allegedly locked his son Thomas Valva in a garage as a form of punishment, and the young boy froze to death. Authorities later charged Valva and Pollina with second-degree murder, and both are currently awaiting trial, which has seen extensive delays in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, a federal judge advanced a civil lawsuit against various authorities whom mother Justyna Zubko-Valva claims should have intervened.

According to her lawsuit, Michael Valva, a former NYPD officer, subjected the 8-year-old and his brothers to “sadistic” punishments for years, forcing them to eat hot pepper, denying them access to a bathroom, and leaving them home alone without food or water.

“Forcing Tommy and [his brother] Anthony to sleep in subfreezing temperatures on a cold, cement slab in the garage was so common in Mr. Valva and Ms. Pollina’s household that they referred to the garage as the ‘kid’s room,'” U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman wrote in a 37-page ruling, summarizing the allegations of the complaint.

“While the barbaric acts of Mr. Valva and Ms. Pollina are directly responsible for Tommy’s death, there is an institutional actor that is almost as culpable,” Judge Korman continued.

In three separate rulings filed late last week, Korman rattled off the private and government actors still on the hook for possible civil liability in the autistic boy’s death. They broadly break down into defendants associated with Child Protective Services, who face allegations of deliberate indifference; the boy’s school district, which faces wrongful death claims; and various attorneys accused of malpractice. The judge advanced all three tranches of cases, in mixed rulings.

The boy’s mother claims that she presented the school with more than two years’ worth of evidence before her son’s death of the father’s alleged abuse, including audio recordings, photographic evidence, and medical evidence.

“Mrs. Valva was so worried about the children that she emailed the school’s principal that the children were in ‘enormous danger of losing their lives by Michael Valva and [Angela] Pollina,'” the ruling states, summarizing the allegations. “In January 2018, Mrs. Valva alleges that ‘the School Defendants saw clear, irrefutable proof that Tommy had been physically beaten and abused by [Mr.] Valva, with severe bruising in his lower spine and buttocks area.'”

The lawsuit alleges that CPS investigators lied repeatedly to advance the neglect investigation against the mother and fabricated evidence against her. According to the ruling, a judge dismissed that neglect petition and ordered CPS to investigate abuse allegations against the father. Despite reports that the children looked “emaciated,” CPS closed out its final investigation 10 days before Tommy Valva’s death, the mother says.


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22 Jun 2022, 7:08 pm

Goddamn a$$holes.


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04 Sep 2022, 5:32 pm

Valva murder trial set to begin Wednesday with jury selection
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Thomas Valva was so hungry that he scrounged for food in trash cans at his elementary school. Before his 2020 death from hypothermia, the 8-year-old boy had missing hair, was bruised and walked with a limp. On surveillance video seized from his Center Moriches home, Thomas shivered visibly on the cement floor of his father’s garage in the dead of winter. There was no blanket to keep him warm.

These are some of the allegations that Suffolk County prosecutors have made and are expected to present to jurors during the upcoming murder trial of Thomas’ father, Michael Valva, an ex-NYPD officer, and the cop’s ex-fiancee, Angela Pollina. They both have pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection is expected to begin Wednesday in Riverhead to select two separate juries to consider the case, more than 2½ years after Thomas' death in a house on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches that prosecutors have labeled a "house of horrors."

Valva, 43, and Pollina, 45, pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and child endangerment in Thomas' death and the alleged abuse of his older brother Anthony, who was 10 years old at the time.

Thomas, who was on the autism spectrum, died on Jan. 17, 2020, after he allegedly was forced by Valva and Pollina to sleep in an unheated garage in 19 degree weather, prosecutors have said.

Thomas' body temperature was just 76.1 degrees before he died, prosecutors have said. His cause of death was ruled as hypothermia. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Suffolk Supreme Court Justice William Condon, who is presiding over the case, has said the trial will take an estimated three months, including about a month to select two juries, each consisting of 12 jurors and six alternates. The prosecution has estimated it will call at least 36 witnesses to testify.

The judge ruled earlier that both defendants will be on trial at the same time, but each defendant will have its own jury, despite a defense push for the defendants to be tried separately.

In the walk-up to the trial, defense attorneys have cast blame on each other's clients.

Pollina's lawyer has alleged that it was Valva who sprayed the child with a cold water hose shortly before his death, and Valva's lawyers have said it was Pollina who forced Thomas to sleep in the garage.

Valva defense attorneys John LoTurco and Anthony LaPinta, in a written statement before jury selection, said their team is ready to go to trial.

“We appreciate the complex challenges of jury selection considering the tragic nature surrounding the case, and the extensive negative pretrial publicity," the statement said. "However, we are hopeful that we can select a fair and impartial jury in Suffolk County by having thoughtful, honest and meaningful conversations with prospective jurors."

The attorneys said they expect the jurors to examine the evidence carefully and the panel to find Valva didn't murder his son or put him at risk of death.

The attorneys didn't say whether Valva would take the stand.

LoTurco, in earlier comments, has called Thomas' death "a nightmarish accidental death and clearly not a murder."

On the night before Thomas died, LoTurco has said, the door separating the garage and access to the home was unlocked and there was a large electric space heater that was turned on inside the garage.

LoTurco also has cast Pollina as the "wicked, cruel stepmother" who "despised those autistic children" and "compelled them to be in the garage."

Matthew Tuohy, the defense attorney for Pollina, said his client will take the stand.

“She’s 100% going to testify, 100%,” Tuohy told Newsday in a recent interview. “She’s got nothing to hide, nothing to hold back. It’s important that they hear from her.”

Tuohy has said Valva controlled the boys he had fathered with estranged wife Justyna Zubko-Valva, who was in the midst of a contentious divorce and custody battle at the time of Thomas’ death, while Pollina looked after her daughters from previous relationships.

“Did Angela Pollina kill this boy? Or was she part of it? And I think people with common sense will look at the facts and say absolutely not. Were there mistakes made? Yes.”

Because of their antagonistic defenses, the case could not be decided by a single jury, the judge ruled previously. The setup is rare, according to legal experts, but not unprecedented.

“It certainly presents legal issues and logistical issues having two juries at one time,” said Fred Klein, a former veteran Nassau County prosecutor who has handled high-profile cases, including the prosecution of Amy Fisher, and now teaches at Hofstra University's law school.

“The prosecution has to make sure they’re preparing their witnesses thoroughly," Klein said. "For the prosecution, that could be a nightmare if the witnesses say something in front of the jury that they’re not supposed to say.”

Defense attorney Steven Politi, who has experience representing a client accused of causing the death of a child, said the court faces a hurdle in finding jurors who haven’t made up their minds about the case, which has been covered extensively in the news media.

“I think the biggest challenge that the lawyers are going to have is finding a jury that doesn’t already have the DA office’s narrative in their mind,” Politi said. “There’s been so much press and so many negative facts put forth, are you going to be able to find a jury in Suffolk County? Obviously, the sympathy that every human being is going to have is through the roof.”

"There’s been so many extra judicial comments, things that have taken place outside the courtroom, and I worry for all defense attorneys in these high-profile cases,” Politi said.

The prosecution’s evidence has been previewed, in part, during the February 2020 arraignments of both defendants and during a week of pretrial hearings in May 2021 to determine whether key evidence against Valva and Pollina — including audio, video surveillance and the clothing Thomas was wearing at the time of his death — would be admissible at the trial.

The defense argued that it should be thrown out on the grounds it was obtained unlawfully. The judge ruled in the prosecution’s favor.

he prosecution played a dramatic 911 call made by Valva on the morning of his son's death at the hearings, and called several witnesses to testify, including Suffolk County police officers and detectives, a housekeeper and a neighbor of the former couple. Valva's divorce attorney also testified.

At the former couple's arraignment, lead prosecutor Kerri Ann Kelly, who is the chief of the Suffolk district attorney's Major Crime Bureau, described video evidence culled from the home's extensive indoor surveillance system showing Thomas and Anthony "banished to the garage once again" two days before his death. Thomas was "shaking in the freezing cold air and clearly exhibiting signs that he needs to use the bathroom in 19 degree weather," said Kelly, who said Thomas was "looking into the Nest camera with pleading eyes for someone to help him."

Pollina, according to the prosecutor at their arraignment, "took a clip of the freezing children from the Nest video and sent it to Michael Valva, who was at work at the time." Pollina and Valva then had a text message conversation about whether Thomas was going to school the next morning. Valva replied, according to prosecutors: "I have zero clothing for him. [Expletive] the piece of [expletive] Thomas. He’s not going anywhere."

Other video footage, according to prosecutors, shows Valva "beating one of his children with a closed fist while screaming at him" and "Thomas begging to be let out of his room to use the bathroom."

In audio from the home from the morning Thomas died, prosecutors alleged Valva yelled about Thomas having an accident. "[Expletive] moron. I told him to stand up. Wash yourself. What does he do? He head dives into the [expletive] concrete."

A child was heard saying Thomas couldn't walk and "Angela explained that Thomas is hypothermic," Kelly said at the arraignment, adding that Valva told Pollina that Thomas had "face-planted twice in the garage."

Pollina then asked why he fell, according to prosecutors. "Cuz he was cold. Boo-[expletive]-hoo. Now he’s a bloody [expletive] mess," Valva replied, according to prosecutors who added that Pollina only expressed concern that Valva not yell so neighbors wouldn't hear.

Thomas Valva Case Timeline
2004: NYPD Officer Michael Valva weds Justyna Zubko-Valva, a Polish national who came to the United States on a student visa in 2002.

2009: Zubko-Valva gives birth to the couple’s first child, Anthony.

Sept. 14, 2011: Thomas Valva is born. He and his brother Anthony would later be diagnosed with autism. A third son, Andrew, was born in May 2013.
Late 2014: Valva moves out of the family’s Valley Stream condominium. Zubko-Valva accuses him in court papers of abandoning her and the children. She claims Valva is having an affair with Angela Pollina, a hospital administrator and the mother of three daughters. Valva and Zubko-Valva begin divorce proceedings in 2015.

July 2016: Zubko-Valva tells Child Protective Services that Valva abuses the boys, according to court transcripts. She tells Nassau County Judge Francis Ricigliano during a hearing that her sons come home hungry and thirsty after visits with their father. She claims Valva didn't get medical attention for Andrew when the boy had a 102-degree fever.

September 2018: Nassau County Judge Hope Zimmerman awards temporary custody of the boys to Valva. The judge says Zubko-Valva can have unsupervised visits with her children every other weekend.

Fall 2017: Staff at East Moriches Elementary School, where Anthony and Thomas were enrolled, express concerns about abuse, with one teacher writing in a memo that the boys are not getting enough to eat, court papers show. Anthony loses 11 pounds in nine months, she writes, while Thomas gains just one pound in the preceding 20 months.

January 2018: Thomas tells a social worker, according to Child Protective Services, that his mother left a mark under his eye. Andrew also says his mother hurts him and he is afraid of her. Thomas denies the allegation that his father punishes the kids by putting them out in the cold.

February 2018: CPS says Zubko-Valva is “indicated” for inadequate guardianship for the boys, citing her deteriorating mental state. A CPS report produces evidence that Valva’s actions place the six kids — his boys and Pollina’s three daughters — at risk of physical, mental and emotional harm.

April 2018: Valva completes a parenting skills program. School psychologist Renee Emin writes a note that says Valva and Pollina do not understand the depth of Thomas' and Anthony's disabilities. She also notes the boys are afraid to go to the nurse's office because Valva and Pollina tell them not to go there.

Fall 2018: School psychologist Emin tells CPS that Valva doesn't understand the boys’ needs. The school also expresses concerns about Anthony’s weight loss and says the boys pick up food from the floor and constantly ask for snacks.

February 2018: A report to CPS states that Anthony has come to school for at least a week with urine-soaked clothes and backpack, and that Valva and Pollina are not addressing the issue.

March 2019: Report to CPS says Valva and Pollina told Anthony to act out in school and on the bus so that he will be transferred to another school. The anonymous report said the boys are losing weight and the father punishes Anthony by putting him in the garage for long periods of time.

May 2019: Report to CPS says Valva threw a book bag at Thomas, leaving the boy with a bruise and bump on his forehead. A few days later, CPS says Anthony threw the bag and no safety risks were found.

July 2019: During divorce proceedings before Nassau County Judge Joseph Lorintz, Zubko-Valva says she has not seen her children in 18 months and the boys are being abused in the home of her estranged husband. She said Anthony sleeps in the garage and is not being fed.

Jan. 17, 2020: Suffolk police officers respond to the Valva home on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches at 9:40 a.m. after receiving a 911 call reporting that Thomas has fallen in the driveway. Thomas is transported to Long Island Community Hospital, where he is pronounced dead. An investigation by Suffolk police homicide detectives revealed that Thomas and Anthony had been forced to sleep without blankets, mattresses or pillows in the garage on the night of Jan. 16, when the temperature outside had dipped to 19 degrees. The Suffolk County medical examiner determines Thomas' cause of death to be hypothermia.

Jan. 24, 2020: Valva and Pollina are arrested by Suffolk police.

Feb. 6, 2020: An indictment charges Valva and Pollina each with second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Both plead not guilty at their arraignment. If convicted, they face up to 25 years to life in prison. Valva tells a Suffolk Family Court judge that he has been fired by the NYPD. Police said he was suspended without pay.

June 2020: Zubko-Valva files a $200 million federal lawsuit claiming Long Island officials charged with protecting Thomas ignored years of warnings of sexual abuse, beatings, starvation and neglect that resulted in the death of the 8-year-old. The 99-page lawsuit said a Nassau judge, Suffolk Child Protective Services employees, East Moriches school officials and others were complicit in the boy's death.

October 2020: Valva resigns from the NYPD.

March 11, 2021: Prosecutors say in court papers that Thomas Valva was missing hair, walked with a limp and had a medical condition consistent with prolonged stress before his death.

May 19, 2021: During a hearing in Riverhead, defense attorneys for Valva and Pollina say the two blame each other for Thomas’ hypothermia death. Valva’s attorney called Pollina a “wicked, cruel stepmother” after the hearing. Pollina’s attorney said Valva was solely responsible for the boy’s death and said his client was controlled and intimidated by him.

Aug. 5, 2021: Suffolk County Judge William Condon rules that key surveillance and other evidence be admitted at the murder trials of Valva and Pollina, who claimed Suffolk investigators had seized the material illegally. Condon indicated that he would allow two juries, one of each defendant.

June 2022: A federal judge rules that part of the $200 million lawsuit filed by Zubko-Valva can proceed, including claims against Suffolk County and several county Child Protective Services employees for a series of alleged failures before Thomas' death.

June 24, 2022: Condon said jury selection in the Valva-Pollina murder trial, delayed repeatedly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will begin on Sept. 7. “That date is in stone,” Condon told prosecutors and defense attorneys.
T Jury selection is scheduled to begin in the Valva-Pollina murder case.

Timeline material was compiled by Newsday reporter Michael O'Keeffe from court records and live Newsday courtroom coverage.


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13 Sep 2022, 7:25 am

Judge orders two separate murder trials in Thomas Valva's death
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The ex-NYPD officer and his former fiancee charged with murder in the hypothermia death of the cop's 8-year-old son Thomas Valva, will be tried separately, the presiding judge ruled Monday.

"Out of an abundance of caution....this court has no choice but to sever these trials," Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice William Condon ruled from the bench in Riverhead Monday afternoon, adding that two separate trials was the "surest way to ensure that all parties receive a fair trial."

The stunning reversal came as the joint case against Michael Valva, 43, and Angela Pollina, 45, was expected to begin with opening arguments and testimony early next month. The two defendants have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment.

But defense attorneys for Valva last week revived their motion for separate trials, which the judge had previously denied, after Valva alleged to his lawyers that he had discussed facts of the case with Pollina's attorney Matthew Tuohy when Tuohy briefly represented Valva at his initial arraignment.

The Valva attorneys argued the conversation, which Valva said was a few minutes long and Tuohy said was about 15 seconds, could present a potential conflict if Tuohy learned information during the conversation that could assist him in mounting Pollina's defense, and hurt Valva's cas


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13 Sep 2022, 1:05 pm

They both deserve to fry.


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13 Sep 2022, 10:57 pm

goldfish21 wrote:
They both deserve to fry.

The opposite. Dad deserves the death sentence by locking him in a freezer nude and being given no food and mocked as he struggles. Just like he treated his kid.


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28 Sep 2022, 6:28 pm

DA says Michael Valva wrote: 'I will beat them until they bleed'
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Thomas Valva and his brother suffered through years of abuse and neglect at the hands of their father — a former New York City police officer who stands accused of murder in his hypothermia death — a Suffolk prosecutor told jurors during opening statements in the case on Wednesday.

“I will beat them until they bleed,” Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe said Michael Valva wrote to his then-fiancee in a text-message exchange. "It is the only thing that works.”

Newcombe told the jurors there are four numbers they needed to remember: Thomas’ age when he died (8), the number of hours he spent in the garage (16), the low temperature the day he died (19), and 76.1, Thomas’ body temperature when he was taken to Long Island Community Hospital, more than 20 degrees lower than normal.

During 40 minutes, Newcombe described for jurors what she said was the result of years of abuse and neglect that began when Valva and his boys moved into 11 Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches in September 2017 with Pollina and her three daughters.

Thomas and Anthony, both diagnosed as autistic, had been toilet trained but regressed after the move and began to have accidents, she said. Valva and Pollina forced the boys to wear pull-ups and withheld food when the children soiled themselves or their beds, the prosecutor said.

Teachers reported that Anthony and Thomas would show up to school with bruises and clothes that smelled of urine, Newcombe said. Anthony and Thomas were not given enough to eat and were frequently seen picking food from the garbage or stealing food from other kids.

“They were observed at school literally eating crumbs off the floor,” Newcombe told the jury.

The boys were forced to sleep on dog pee pads on the floor of the room they shared with their younger brother, Andrew, and then in a tent in the backyard. When the weather turned cold, Newcombe said, Valva and Pollina forced the boys to sleep in the unheated garage.

Video from the home’s Nest security system, Newcombe told the jurors, will show that the boys were forced to do homework, eat and sleep on the garage floor. They were denied access to the bathroom and forced to use the toilet outside, she said.

“Through these cameras, you will see the abuse they endured at the hands of these defendants,” Newcombe promised the jury.

Thomas soiled himself on the morning of Jan. 17, 2020, after spending 16 hours in the garage while temperatures plunged to 19 degrees, the prosecutor said. Valva ordered the boy to strip down in the backyard, where he cleaned Thomas with freezing water from an outdoor spigot, Newcombe said.

One of Valva’s defense attorneys, Anthony La Pinta, used his opening statement to pin the blame for the years of abuse and neglect — and Thomas’ death — on Valva’s co-defendant, Pollina.

Anthony and Thomas struggled with incontinence, which doctors told Valva stemmed from behavioral issues, La Pinta said during his 40-minute opening statement.

Pollina resented the boys for soiling her furniture and bedding and told Valva that he was “too easy on them,” La Pinta said. She wanted Valva and the boys to move out of the Bittersweet Lane home, but Valva did not have the money to find a home of his own.

The former NYPD cop was overwhelmed both financially and emotionally, La Pinta said, the result of a very expensive and draining divorce and custody battle with the mother of his boys, Justyna Zubko-Valva. Valva worked the night shift so he could be with the kids during the day, commuting from Center Moriches to New York City. Valva’s own father had recently died and the rest of his immediate family lived in Arizona. Without help, he was forced to stay in the relationship with Pollina.

“He tried his best to salvage the relationship,” La Pinta said.

Valva was not comfortable with confrontation — his NYPD supervisors chastised him for not writing enough tickets and making enough arrests — and he felt “intimidated” by Pollina and her demands for harsh punishment for Thomas and Anthony, La Pinta said. The couple fought bitterly over what Pollina described as Valva’s soft disciplinary style, La Pinta told the jury.

“Eleven Bittersweet Lane was becoming more bitter by the day,” La Pinta said.

Valva supplied the boys with mattresses, blankets, books and a TV when Pollina banished them to the garage, La Pinta said. But those amenities were removed when the boys again soiled themselves, and Pollina forbid Valva from returning them.

“You are making it too comfortable for them,” Pollina allegedly told Valva, according to La Pinta. “Let them be uncomfortable. That will teach them to control themselves.”

Valva, LaPinta told the jury, often lost his temper with the boys but never anticipated that Thomas would die. His client did nothing that would warrant a second-degree murder conviction, he said.

“This was not a senseless act of evil,” La Pinta told the jury. “You need to think with your heads and not with your hearts. “


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28 Sep 2022, 6:43 pm

^^^
Yes. Yes it is a senseless act of evil.


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28 Sep 2022, 6:48 pm

Stfu & go to jail. Both of them.


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06 Oct 2022, 12:15 am

Witness: Video from Thomas Valva's house the day he died was deleted
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Surveillance video recorded at 8-year-old Thomas Valva’s Center Moriches home leading up to his 2020 hypothermia death was deleted hours after he died, a police detective testified Tuesday.

Det. Guy Gerig, a 34-year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Department, told jurors that he was given the username and password to access the cloud-based surveillance system by a homicide detective on Jan. 17, 2020 — the day Thomas died — but once he got into the system, “most” of the footage from that day was gone.

“Footage on most of the cameras prior to 1 p.m. had been erased,” Gerig said on the stand in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead. “I could see, again prior to 1 p.m., any footage prior to that, just wasn’t there.”

Gerig, under questioning by Suffolk Assistant District Attorney James Scahill, said the only footage that he was able to download from the Nest camera system from that day was from a camera labeled “Bella’s room.” Bella was the Valva family dog.

Gerig described how he worked for about six hours — from about 4 to 10 p.m. that day — downloading video clips from the system onto his computer at police headquarters in Yaphank.

At some point, Gerig testified, he was locked out of the system.

“In my opinion, it had been changed,” Gerig said, referring to the camera system’s password.

Valva defense attorneys have said it was Pollina’s camera system, and her username and password, so if any videos were erased or if the password was changed, it was not Valva’s doing.

Witness Patrick Aube, a network intrusion forensic analyst with the U.S. Secret Service, told the jury he extracted the cellphone data from both Valva and Pollina’s cellphones. Aube testified that the password to the system was changed that afternoon using a two-step verification process linked to Pollina’s phone.

Aube, who is a former Southampton detective, also testified that the camera labeled the “kids’ room” — the garage where prosecutors have said Thomas and Anthony were forced to sleep — went offline at 3:47 p.m. the day Thomas died, and other cameras went dark soon after that.

Under cross-examination from Valva defense attorney Sabato Caponi, Aube acknowledged that Pollina sent Nest video to Valva, but Valva did not send video to his now former fiancee.


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06 Oct 2022, 10:06 pm

Witness: Michael Valva did 'nothing' as ex-fiancee Angela Pollina attacked his son
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A plumber who did work at the Center Moriches home of Michael Valva broke down in tears while testifying Thursday, describing how the ex-NYPD officer did nothing as his then-fiancee threw one of his sons down the stairs as punishment for having an accident about six months before 8-year-old Thomas Valva's death.

"All hell broke loose," said Thomas Norris, a plumber with 35 years of experience and a decadelong family friendship with Valva's ex-fiancee Angela Pollina. "Pollina came yelling, cursing and screaming, 'this is the way I take care of [expletive] business.' She took the kid and threw him down the stairs."

Norris, who testified at Valva's murder trial in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, said he was fixing the shower in Valva's and Pollina's master bathroom in July 2019 when Valva came home and found that one of his sons, who had been locked in their bedroom, had apparently wet the bed.

Norris said Valva went downstairs to apparently get some cleaning supplies, when Pollina flew into a rage, throwing and dragging the boy down the stairs and out the front door. Norris said he did not know which boy she attacked. Norris said Pollina said she didn’t watch the boys when Valva wasn’t home, and instead, locked them in their room.

Valva, who was standing at the bottom of the steps inside the two-story home, didn't intervene as the boy cried and Pollina shouted, Norris said.

Norris at times rolled his eyes and looked away as lead Valva defense attorney John LoTurco, who repeatedly offered Norris the opportunity to take a break, questioned him on cross-examination.

LoTurco attempted to draw attention to perceived inconsistencies between Norris' sworn statement to police and his court testimony. For example, Norris had told police the boys were locked in their room for five hours, but on the witness stand Thursday, he didn’t recall the exact time period.

"I don't like the way he's talking to me," Norris said, turning to Supreme Court Justice William Condon, the presiding trial judge.

LoTurco said he apologized if Norris felt offended.

At another point, LoTurco asked the witness: "[Valva] didn't strike Angela in any way?"

Norris shot back: "He should have."

Asked by LoTurco if he reported Pollina to Child Protective Services or the police, Norris said he had not. “I wish I did,” Norris said about calling CPS.

Another witness, Tina Licari, who testified that she gave piano lessons to one of Pollina’s daughters in the home’s basement, said she heard Pollina yell at the Valva boys upstairs.

“It was vicious,” said Licari. “She would have outbursts of rage.”

Also testifying Thursday was Constance Dinkel, the assistant chief of the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory, who testified about finding nine crumpled up pieces of paper that was “strewed about the garbage,” during a police search of the Valva family trash can outside their Bittersweet Lane home, several days after Thomas’ death.

The nine pages consisted of repeated pledges, handwritten in what appeared to be pencil. "I will listen to mom” and “I will not pee my pants,” Dinkel read to the jury. Also included were two letters written by Anthony to school officials in which he apologized for alleged infractions.


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07 Oct 2022, 3:24 pm

Lock them both in a cold room that doesn't have a washroom.


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11 Oct 2022, 4:23 pm

East Moriches Elementary Principal Edward Schneyer says school flooded CPS hotline
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Frustrated East Moriches Elementary School staffers, fearful that their reports to Child Protective Services about Thomas Valva and his older brother Anthony were not being addressed, decided to flood the agency’s mandated reporter hotline to bring attention to the boys’ plight, the school’s principal testified Tuesday in the trial of ex-NYPD officer Michael Valva.

Principal Edward Schneyer told the jurors in Valva’s second-degree murder trial that Thomas and Anthony were “happy, healthy, clean” when they enrolled at East Moriches Elementary in September 2017. But the boys’ conditions began to deteriorate that school year, according to Schneyer, and both had lost a distressing amount of weight by the spring, Schneyer testified at Valva's trial in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead. Anthony, Schneyer said, was especially gaunt.

Administrators filed repeated reports to CPS detailing the boys’ decline, Schneyer testified. Anthony had arrived at school in urine-soaked clothing while Thomas had bruises and lacerations on his face, he said, and both children were chronically hungry and cold. The boys' condition would improve after the reports were filed, but those improvements were only temporary, he said.

"We felt like as a team we were not getting the results we wanted … we decided as a team we were going to just flood the CPS hotline with calls,” Schneyer testified.

Schneyer said Valva was combative when school officials raised concerns about the boys, saying his family was being harassed by school officials and threatened to sue.

Schneyer was visibly shaken when asked about the day Thomas died. A volunteer firefighter, he had received a notice informing him that a child on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches had suffered a cardiac arrest. “I knew that address because I had to put it in the CPS reports,” he said.

Lead Valva defense attorney John LoTurco, in a brief interview during Tuesday's trial lunch break, attempted to downplay the principal's testimony, saying the prosecution was not calling any Child Protective Services caseworkers to corroborate his testimony.

"Why is there no CPS caseworkers going to be called at this trial? Ninety-nine percent of the CPS reports came back unfounded," LoTurco said. "Why is the CPS workers not being called to explain their rationale? … There's a big void in the narrative in the prosecution's case."

Asked if he planned to call any CPS workers, LoTurco said: "Potentially we might call them."

Asked to respond to the substance of the principal's testimony — that Thomas and Anthony were frequently hungry and cold — LoTurco said the evidence would show otherwise.


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13 Oct 2022, 5:37 am

East Moriches Elementary School psychologist Renee Emin said Thomas confided he slept in the garage
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Thomas Valva confided in his school psychologist and a Child Protective Services investigator that he and his older brother had been sleeping in the garage of their Center Moriches home several months before the 8-year-old boy died following a night on the garage's bare concrete floor in subfreezing weather, the East Moriches school psychologist testified Wednesday at the murder trial of the boy’s father and ex-NYPD officer Michael Valva.

"Thomas said he and Anthony slept in the garage," said school psychologist Renee Emin, describing the May 14, 2019, conversation during a CPS visit at the school. "He said they stayed in the garage because they have accidents.

"He said it to the person who should be able to do something about it."

The school psychologist, who had held weekly counseling sessions with both boys, said Thomas was "very calm" and "matter of fact" as he offered the information and added that he had to go to the bathroom outside and hose himself off afterward.

Emin said caseworker Melissa Estrada notified her supervisor, but remarked to the psychologist: "I've been in the garage. It's not possible to fit a mattress."

[spoiler]
Emin, in testimony that largely echoed prior witness Edward Schneyer, the school principal, said the boys had a promising start at the school in September 2017, but later cried for food at the school, were often cold and were sometimes bruised. The boys didn’t exhibit bathroom issues initially, but later were sent to school in pull-ups, she said.

“Their hands were always red,” Emin said from the stand of Thomas and Anthony. “I can’t even describe it enough to give you a vivid picture. … It’s an image that haunts all of us.”

The brothers were initially "playful" and "happy," Emin said, but soon problems emerged. The boys looked "frail," their skin appeared gray and they had black bags under their eyes, she said.

"They looked emaciated," she told jurors.

During weekly counseling sessions with Thomas and Anthony, the boys said they were hungry, she said.

"Thomas throughout would cry and repeatedly state he was hungry, to the point it was difficult to continue our counseling session," said Emin, who said she began bringing snacks for both brothers.

She also testified that Thomas once "winced" when he sat down and told her, the school nurse and a caseworker from Child Protective Services who came to the school to investigate that his bottom hurt.

The nurse examined Thomas, she said, and took a photo that showed bruising.

"His bottom had a handprint," Emin said, adding that when she asked Thomas who had inflicted the injury "he said his dad."

Emin also testified that three weeks prior to Thomas' disclosure about sleeping in the garage, Thomas came to school with a fresh haircut that exposed a "large bump" on his head as well as a spot that appeared bald "to the root."

"He said his father threw a backpack with a flower pot at him," Emin said.

In the weeks before Thomas died, their conditions had seemingly deteriorated, she said. Anthony was hunched over and "looked like he needed a cane and a walker," the witness told jurors. Thomas, who loved gym class, opted out because he was limping and said he was in pain, Emin testified.

"He was crying," said Emin, who recalled that the last time she saw Anthony was at Thomas' wake.
Earlier on Wednesday, the husband of Pollina’s first cousin, Edward Concilio, testified that he became aware that Anthony and Thomas had been forced to sleep and eat in the garage while he was staying rent-free at the Valva-Pollina home in 2019
[/spoiler]

Concilio, a Florida resident who worked for Southwest Airlines, said he flew to Long Island to work at Long Island MacArthur Airport and stayed three or four days a week at the Bittersweet Lane home between November 2018 and January 2020.

Valva, he said, erupted in anger when a teacher sent an email to him and Pollina that said Thomas had stolen a jar of M & M's in the classroom.

“If he wants to be a perp, I’m gonna treat him like a perp,” Valva exploded, according to Concilio, who said Valva planned to handcuff the boy.

“You're not gonna put handcuffs on him, he's a kid,” Concilio testified he told Valva, who then retreated.

Under cross-examination by Valva’s attorney Anthony La Pinta, Concilio affirmed a key narrative to their defense.

Concilio told La Pinta that he did not confront Pollina about the alleged abuse and neglect because Pollina had a "hair-trigger temper" and would focus her wrath on him.

Concilio also acknowledged that he did not contact CPS or Suffolk police about the alleged neglect and abuse.

“You avoided that situation of the boys in the garage because you didn’t want to deal with Angela?” La Pinta inquired.

“Correct,” Concilio replied.

Concilio testified that Pollina was the dominant personality in the home who would become furious when Anthony or Thomas had toilet issues. Valva’s defense team has repeatedly sought to pin the blame for Thomas’ death on Pollina. Valva had financial struggles due to his lengthy and expensive custody battle with the boys’ mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, and felt he had no choice but to go along with Pollina’s demands, the defense has argued.

Valva, who was working as a library security guard in addition to this then full-time job as an NYPD officer, told Concilio about his financial problems and the ongoing tension with Pollina. Concilio testified he suggested Valva and the boys move out.

“Didn’t he say he had nowhere to go?” La Pinta asked Concilio.

“Yes,” Concilio responded.

Under cross-examination by Valva’s attorney Anthony La Pinta, Concilio affirmed a key narrative to their defense.

Concilio told La Pinta that he did not confront Pollina about the alleged abuse and neglect because Pollina had a "hair-trigger temper" and would focus her wrath on him.

Concilio also acknowledged that he did not contact CPS or Suffolk police about the alleged neglect and abuse.

“You avoided that situation of the boys in the garage because you didn’t want to deal with Angela?” La Pinta inquired.

“Correct,” Concilio replied.

Concilio testified that Pollina was the dominant personality in the home who would become furious when Anthony or Thomas had toilet issues. Valva’s defense team has repeatedly sought to pin the blame for Thomas’ death on Pollina. Valva had financial struggles due to his lengthy and expensive custody battle with the boys’ mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, and felt he had no choice but to go along with Pollina’s demands, the defense has argued.

Valva, who was working as a library security guard in addition to this then full-time job as an NYPD officer, told Concilio about his financial problems and the ongoing tension with Pollina. Concilio testified he suggested Valva and the boys move out.

“Didn’t he say he had nowhere to go?” La Pinta asked Concilio.

“Yes,” Concilio responded.


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman