VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Two and a half weeks after the death of Thomas Valva, allegedly at the hands of his NYPD father, a community remains in mourning with many unanswered questions.
Did systematic failures leave the little boy unprotected? CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan is investigating the case.
Thomas froze to death in his father Michael Valva’s garage. It was no secret the 8-year-old had been suffering. CBS2 obtained abuse complaint records and custody hearing transcripts.
“Those judges seemed like they just didn’t care. CPS caseworkers also, they are extremely responsible for what happened to Tommy,” Zubko-Valva said.
From 2014-19, 21 911 calls were placed to Nassau County police from his Valley Stream home. In 2015, a contentious divorce battle began.
Court transcripts from 2017 show a judge admonishing the mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, who was representing herself, as she desperately raised her hand saying, “He has failed to pick up our children 29 times.”
“Stop talking,” the judge responded.
The attorney for the children then said, “I believe it might be time for this court to make a change in custody.”
Zubko-Valva attempted to provide a flash drive of documented abuse, including children starving and accusations of physical abuse.
Video and audio reveals Thomas saying, “Daddy said to me that I can’t listen to you and I can’t hug you and I can’t say ‘I love you mommy,’ and ‘I miss you mommy,'” the boy says, “Daddy’s going to put me outside.”
The judge appears to wave away the flash drive, implying not at this time.
“She’s not complied with any order,” said the judge, scolding Justyna for failure to bring the boys to court-appointed attorney and dragging her feet on a doctor’s evaluation.
In September 2017, the judge awarded temporary custody to Michael Valva. An order of protection was issued against Justyna without explanation or without being required an explanation.
“They did not have any evidence against me, so they would have claimed that I have mental illness, or that I am drinking, or I have erratic behavior,” Zubko-Valva said.
She claims she was evaluated and cleared by her correction officer employer, with a neuropsychologist saying, “Justyna always puts the needs of children at forefront.”
Still, the three sons moved in with Michael Valva and fiancee Angela Pollina.
From 2018-19, there were 20 calls from East Moriches teachers to child protection hotlines, both state and county, for missing school, a black eye, lacerations, hunger, visible dirt on the body, and urine-soaked clothing.
Michael Valva blamed it on playground mishaps.
A special education teacher wrote “Not allowed to eat breakfast because they did not use their manners.”
Five Suffolk County CPS caseworkers investigated a series of reports in 2019 and concluded the situation, “did not rise to level of immediate or impending danger of serious harm. No controlling interventions are necessary at this time.”
“Judges and law guardians and CPS staff get a 10-minute window of opportunity to see what ‘s going on in that kid’s life and to make a decision that can be life or death,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds of the Family and Children’s Association.
Three judges from Nassau and Suffolk told CBS2 that since this is a pending criminal matter it is inappropriate to comment at this time. One has recused himself from future proceedings.
Social services agencies say there were court-ordered home supervisions and mandated positive parenting programs.
Both the Nassau and Suffolk legislatures will be holding hearings in the coming days to determine what changes are necessary in the Department of Social Services to protect vulnerable children.