CENTER MORICHES, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Two people have been arrested in connection to the death of a little boy last week on Long Island, with one of the accused being the child’s father, a NYPD officer.
Suffolk County police said 40-year-old Michael Valva and his fiancee, 42-year-old Angela Pollina, were both charged with second-degree murder.
Investigators say it’s one of the most disturbing cases in the history of the county leading to the death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva. The police commissioner described his finding revealing “the unimaginable has happened in our county.”
“Thomas Valva was subjected to freezing temperatures in the home’s unheated garage overnight when the outside temperature was 19 degrees,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said.
Michael Valva allegedly told police his son fell in the driveway while waiting for the school bus, Hart said. When investigators responded to a 911 call, the father was trying to revive the lifeless body of the boy.
“At the time of his arrival at the hospital, Thomas’ body temperature was 76 degrees,” said Hart.
Friday morning, police swarmed the home of the couple on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches, carrying out evidence as neighbors stood by aghast. Many had contributed to a GoFundMe campaign the father set up for funeral expenses, and they fear those contributions will now go to the couple’s legal defense.
CBS2 obtained school district reports from nurses and psychologists that Thomas and his brother had come to school hungry and in urine-soaked clothing. A nurse assigned to the case said Thomas had bruises on his body and had not gained weight in a year.
“I can tell you we are going to look at every interaction this child had with the system, and we’re going to follow through,” said Hart.
On Friday afternoon, Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner Frances Pierre released the following statement regarding the family’s history with the agency:
“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.”
Watch: Suffolk Officials Discuss Death Of 8-Year-Old Thomas Valva
“We are happy that he’s been arrested and that these children will not be abused anymore,” said neighbor Sharon Scarborough.
Michael Valva and Pollina allegedly inflicted punishments on Thomas, including starvation and exposure to “extremely frigid temperatures,” Hart said. Police are looking into whether the other children in the house were also treated that way.
Hart said that Thomas Valva’s mother, Justyna Valva, said her son was autistic.
“My son Thomas was just completely unjustly murdered,” Justyna said. “There is evidence, right, of long-term abuse in the household done by father and his girlfriend.”
McLogan spoke with Justyna, the estranged wife of Officer Valva. They have been going through a bitter divorce, and he was granted temporary custody of the couple’s three sons.
“I need to make sure what happened to [Thomas] is not going to happen to my other two children,” she said.
Justyna Valva said she feared for their safety and had not seen the boys in two years, until she was called to the medical examiner’s office to identify her child.
“It was very difficult for me to see him, you know, being lying there,” she said.
She posted videos and recordings to social media, what she claimed was evidence of the abuse, begging for someone to listen.
“Thomas was this little 8-year-old boy, my baby, who always was joyful, always stands for the truth, play his cars, read books, loved songs,” Justyna Valva said. “How unjustfully he was murdered. And right now, I just need closure, I just need justice for him.”
She now has temporary custody of their two other boys pending further family court hearings.
She claims security camera footage from inside and outside the house “will show exactly what happened to Thomas.”
Defense attorney Matthew Tuohy said, “Some of the audio and video happens to be, at least my understanding of what I heard, happens to be a few days before the actual, the date that the boy passed, so you know, again, a lot has to be vetted and looked at.”
Amanda Wildman was once a nanny for Michael Valva and Pollina.
“We’re talking a year ago, they were reporting sleeping in a garage, and now we’re standing here a year later talking about how he died,” she told CBS2’s Valerie Castro.
The former nanny says Thomas’ death could have been prevented, given what she thought was the right intervention when there were allegations of child abuse.
“It was shocking. Even though, like, me working there, there was always verbal abuse,” Wildman said. “I don’t understand how their school could be reporting things or people, friends, be reporting things and it just gets swept under for so long.”
She stopped working for the family in 2018, sometime after child neglect was reported to Suffolk County social services.
“CPS was already involved in their life, so it was, I felt if something was going to happen, it would be caught, but I guess maybe from him being an NYPD officer, he kind of worked his way out of that,” Wildman said.
Michael Valva previously released a statement through a lawyer, saying, “As with any tragedy, our office and Mr. Valva are shocked and saddened to learn of the horrible accident that took the life of young Thomas Valva. We mourn his death with family and friends. Since Thomas’ parents are in a divorce we are unable to make any further comments at this time.”
The NYPD confirms Michael Valva is a transit officer who joined the force in 2005. He had been stripped of his shield and firearm and is currently suspended without pay.
Michael Valva and Pollina both face 25 years to life in prison if convicted. They’re due in court next week.