They were called to court Monday. Michael Valva was wearing the same black t-shirt and blue jeans as when he was arrested last month.
“Any idea that you would represent yourself would be a fool’s errand,” the judge told Valva.
“I just don’t have the funds, and I have no idea how to represent myself,” he replied.
Valva claimed destitution when his appointed attorney withdrew from the case, citing a possible conflict of interest.
Valva’s emotional wife, Justyna, seeking justice for her murder 8-year-old son Thomas allegedly at the hands of his father, says her estranged husband knows how to work the system.
“Constant excuses, that he doesn’t have money, he does have the funds,” said Justyna Zubko-Valva.
The NYPD veteran has been suspended from the force without pay.
Pollina is also charged with murder. The couple is accused of forcing the autistic child to sleep in an unheated garage on a frigid winter’s night. He died of hypothermia.
Valva had his garage and home set up with an extensive surveillance camera system.
“I am enormously concerned. I was told two weeks ago by the district attorney’s office that they cannot get the images, the video images from the day that Tommy died,” Justyna said.
Justyna continues to have temporary custody of her two remaining sons, and asks why, when there were signs of abuse, was saving Thomas from the Center Moriches home so complex and difficult.
“Did the Department of Social Services pull up in front of this house? A caseworker with maybe 40 clients?” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds of the Family & Children’s Association.
Experts say a bitter divorce, trading abuse complaints children coached to lie, lack of cooperation with Child Protective Services, busy judges not getting the whole story all contributed.
“See a very nice house in which a law enforcement officer resided, and say, ‘You know what? Things are probably OK,'” said Dr. Reynolds.
But things weren’t OK. Now, instead of pointing fingers, advocates say it is time for all agencies to come together to do something to fix the system.
The murder proceedings are continuing in criminal court, while the couple’s divorce and custody cases are being held in both matrimonial and family court.