Self-described ‘evil’ stepmom is convicted of murder after ‘exiling’ NYPD cop fiance’s autistic son
A stepmom who described herself as ‘evil’ has been convicted of murdering her NYPD cop fiance’s autistic eight-year-old son by ‘exiling’ him to a freezing garage floor.
Angela Pollina admitted in testimony earlier this week that she helped send her stepsons, Thomas and Anthony, to sleep in the garage at their Long Island home for months while she, her fiance, Michael Valva, and her daughters slept inside in the warm.
‘I was evil. I exiled them, I didn’t know what to do. My hands were tied,’ Pollina confessed.
She claimed, however, that she didn’t believe stepson Thomas was near death moments before he died of hypothermia, despite his body temperature falling to a shocking 76 degrees.
‘I’m not a doctor. He didn’t appear at that time to be in any danger. I didn’t see that he was blue.’
Angela Pollina, a stepmom who described herself as ‘evil’ has been convicted of murdering her NYPD cop husband’s autistic eight year-old son by ‘exiling’ him to a freezing garage floor
Instead of helping the boy, she returned to the kitchen to pay the family’s bills as he perished on the garage floor.
Tina Licari, Pollina’s daughter’s former piano teacher, testified that she saw Pollina have ‘vicious outbursts’ toward the boys, the New York Post reported. At one point, she said she heard her mock Thomas’ autism, taunting him for being unable to talk.
The text messages and Nest camera footage that revealed their plan were erased because ‘Michael told me to,’ Pollina confessed. They were eventually seen clearly enough on security footage.
She faces 25 years to life when she’s sentenced on April 11, according to CBS New York.
On January 17, 2020, Valva – convicted of murder and now himself serving 25 years to life in prison – made son Thomas Valva sleep in their freezing garage the night before he died of hypothermia.
Prosecutors revealed over the course of a month-long trial Valva and his then-fiancée forced son Thomas and his older brother, Anthony, to sleep in the garage of their Long Island home as temperatures plummeted below 20F.
They claimed in court the boys were forced to endure 16 hours inside the cold garage without blankets or access to a bathroom as punishment for urinating and defecating inside the Center Moriches home.
A medical examiner later ruled that Thomas died of hypothermia, as authorities said Michael refused to call 911 for at least an hour after he became unconscious.
Michael Valva, an ex-NYPD officer, was sentenced to 25 years to life behind bars for killing his eight year old son when he forced him to sleep on the concrete floor of a garage as temperatures dipped below freezing
Thomas Valva, 8, died after he was forced to sleep inside the garage of his father’s home in Center Moriches and was told to hose himself off after he soiled himself the next morning
‘I am truly sorry, I’m regretful, ashamed, heartbroken and grief-stricken as I stand here before you, having contributed to the death of my son, Thomas,’ Valva said ahead of the sentencing.
‘I love Thomas with all my heart, as I still love Anthony and Andrew.’
His attorneys had tried to paint Michael as a loving father who was being manipulated by his then-fiancée Angelina Pollina, with whom he shared the two-story Long Island home.
They said it was Pollina who had the idea to force the brothers to sleep in the garage, as Michael tearfully apologized for his actions in court and said Thomas’ death was an accident.
At the sentencing, Newsday reports, Justice Condon told Valva that he believes he is truly sorry for what happened to his young son.
‘I don’t think you intended to kill Thomas, but there is no getting around that Thomas and Anthony lived their lives in constant duress,’ Condon said, adding that the fact that he was a NYPD officer at the time ‘makes your actions that much more unimaginable.’
The veteran judge who is planning to retire at the end of the year then got choked up as he said: ‘We can never let this happen again.’
He then handed down the verdict, as Valva could be seen tearing up as his bottom lip trembled.
Valva, 43, tried to apologize for his actions before his sentencing on Thursday at the Suffolk County Supreme Court on Long Island
Valva’s defense attorneys had tried to shift the blame on his former fiancée Angela Pollina, 42, (right), saying Valva was being manipulated by her and it was her idea to force Thomas and his older brother Anthony into the garage that day
Angelina Pollina allegedly participated in the abuse and spayed Thomas with cold water during the ordeal at the home in Center Moriches. Pictured: Pollina and Valva
Following the announcement, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said justice had been served in the ‘heartbreaking’ case.
‘Thanks to the great work of my prosecutors and the SCPD there is a small measure of justice in Michael Valva receiving the maximum sentence,’ he said at an ensuing news conference.
‘However, no prison sentence is adequate for the cruel treatment this defendant inflicted on his own children. The torture that killed Thomas and endangered Anthony’s welfare was nothing short of evil.’
‘Thankfully the story of this defendant ends here, but the pursuit of justice for Thomas and Anthony continues.
‘We will continue to do everything in our power to hold those responsible accountable for the torture and abuse of these children and also to ensure that Suffolk County has proper safeguards in place to prevent a case like this from ever happening again,’ he added.
Authorities have said they were first dispatched to the Long Island home where the boy had lived at around 9.40am after his father said the boy had fallen in the driveway and lost consciousness while running for the school bus.
Responding officers found Valva performing CPR on Thomas in the basement. The young boy was then rushed to Long Island Community Hospital, where nurses recorded his body temperature as just 76.1 degrees.
He was later pronounced dead from complications of hypothermia.
An ensuing investigation found that cameras and microphones that had been set up in Michael Valva’s home following a string of calls to Child Protective Services recorded him ordering Thomas outside to hose himself down in subfreezing temperatures after he woke up inside the garage and soiled himself.
Prosecutors have said that may have been an early sign that he was suffering from hypothermia.
After he started hosing himself down, authorities say, Thomas lost consciousness and fell face first, several times, into the backyard concrete patio.
Audio files, meanwhile, recorded the couple discussing the fact that Thomas was suffering from hypothermia, had been washed with cold water, couldn’t walk, and was ‘face-planting’ on the concrete.
They laughed as they said ‘he’s hypothermic’ and that he had ‘face-planted’ the floor.
Pollina remarked: ‘You know why he’s falling?’.
Valva replied: ‘Because he’s cold…. boo f*****g hoo’.
It took another hour, prosecutors have said, for Michael to call for help.
Following his death, Thomas’ brothers were placed in the custody of their mother. while Pollina’s daughters were placed in the custody of their biological fathers.
She now faces child endangerment and second-degree murder counts at a trial scheduled to begin in February, and has pleaded not guilty.
Thomas lived inside the home with his older brother, Anthony, as well as a younger brother and Pollina’s three daughters
Prosecutors have described the two-story house as a ‘house of horrors’ as they detailed the abuse Thomas and Anthony faced
In the days that followed, investigators found repeat reports of extreme punishment and starvation that the boys endured inside the home.
Teachers have since testified that the boys came to school with bruises, and often were so hungry they ate crumbs off the floor.
They would often complain about being cold, the teachers said, and would cry about their home life at the East Moriches Elementary School.
One teacher even told how Thomas confided in her that he did not get breakfast one day because he didn’t ‘use my words’ or verbally greet Pollina or call her ‘mommy.’
East Moriches Elementary School principal Edward Schneyer said that when suspicions about the child’s neglect were flagged to Michael, he rebuffed the concerns.
As a result, the school started ‘flooding’ CPS with calls for Thomas’ welfare, Schneyer said.
Schneyer said that Thomas and his older brother Anthony appeared fine when they first started school in 2017, but they later started to come into class looking ‘extremely emaciated.’
The young brothers would come into school feeling cold and hungry, and Thomas would sometimes come to lessons with bruises and cuts on his face.
Anthony, who was 10 at the time, also showed up to school soaked in urine on one occasion.
The children’s conditions would temporarily improve every time the school filed a new CPS complaint, but the changes were only short-lived, Schneyer said.
Justyna Zubko-Valva, Thomas’ mother, has recently been given the go-ahead to sue Child Protective Services and school officials for $200million after they refused to listen to her concerns about her ex-husband’s abuse
Zubko-Valva and her son Thomas before his death. Thomas’ father was awarded custody of Thomas in 2017
Justyna Zubko-Valva, Thomas’ mother, said she had provided the school with evidence of alleged abuse at the hands of his father for two years. The evidence ranged from audio recordings to medical records.
She has recently been given the go-ahead to sue Child Protective Services and school officials for $200million, a judge ruled.
The father was awarded custody of his two sons – both autistic – in 2017, but Zubko-Valva claims that Thomas’ school did nothing about her abuse allegations for a full year after that.
She claims she gave CPS a flash drive with 320 files of evidence of abuse, which included transcripts of Valva teaching his sons to repeat ‘mommy is mean,’ ‘I don’t want to stay with mommy,’ ‘I don’t love mommy.’
Zubko-Valva said that Valva told CPS that she was the abusive parent, that she beat the kids and poisoned them with ‘brown medicine.’
She accused CPS of lying about their findings and fabricated evidence to support the father’s accusations.
Thomas’ mother said that CPS found that he looked ’emaciated,’ but that they closed their investigation into Valva 10 days before their son died.
TIMELINE TO A TRAGEDY: THE THOMAS VALVA CASE
Michael Valva, 41, stands accused of second-degree murder and child endangerment in the death of his son, Thomas, 8, who was on the autism spectrum and was left to freeze in a garage overnight in January.
February 4, 2011: Justyna Zubko-Valva, Michael Valva’s now-estranged wife, accused Michael of verbal and financial abuse.
September 14, 2011: Thomas Valva is born.
Late 2014: Zubko-Valva accuses Valva of having an affair with Angela Pollina.
2015: Divorce proceedings between Zubko-Valva and Valva begin.
July 2016: Zubko-Valva accuses Valva of child abuse, including starvation, dehydration, and a lack of medical care for son Anthony when he had a fever.
September 2017: Valva is awarded temporary custody, with Zubko-Valva getting unsupervised visits every other weekend.
Fall 2017: East Moriches Elementary School staff expresses concerns about abuse in the Valva home.
January 2018: Thomas and Anthony both accuse Zubko-Valva of abuse after meeting with a CPS worker.
April 2018: School psychologist Renee Emin sees bruises on Thomas, which she’s told Valva gave him.
February 2019: CPS report states Anthony goes to school with urine soakings.
March 2019: CPS report again cites potential malnutrition, along with garage punishments.
May 2019: CPS report states Valva threw a book bag at Thomas’ head.
January 16, 2020: Thomas and Anthony are allegedly forced to sleep in the freezing garage overnight with blankets, pillows, or mattresses.
January 17, 2020: Suffolk County Police respond to 911 call after Thomas falls in driveway. He is pronounced dead at Long Island Community Hospital.
January 24, 2020: Valva and Pollina are arrested and charged with second-degree murder and child endangerment.
February 2020: Valva tells Suffolk Family Court he has been fired, but police claim he was simply suspended without pay.
June 2020: Zubko-Valva files $200 million lawsuit against officials for failing to heed her warnings about the abuse Thomas was facing.
October 28, 2020: Valva resigns from the NYPD with his pension intact.