The NYPD cop, Michael Valva, and his partner, Angela Pollina were arrested for the death of Thomas Valva.
Trigger warning: Contains details of child abuse that may be disturbing.
Caring for a differently-abled child is not easy, and unfortunately, not all parents know how to do it. They fail to take care of their child's specific needs and sometimes, are cruel to them as well. In 2020, people were shocked to learn how harshly a man and his partner treated the man's son. The NYPD cop, Michael Valva, 40, and his partner, Angela Pollina, 42, were arrested for the death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva.
The child died of hypothermia in their Long Island home after being forced to stay in an unheated garage even as temperatures outside decreased. The next day, Michael called 911 and said that his son had fallen in the driveway while waiting for a school bus. However, the child's body temperature was 76 degrees when he arrived at the local hospital. His death was ruled a homicide, according to ABC News.
Michael and Angela face second-degree murder charges for allegedly causing the autistic child's death. They have entered not guilty pleas, as per People.
In the latest hearing, a former housekeeper testified against the neglectful father. During a pre-trial hearing, prosecution witness Tyrene Rodriguez said that she heard the boy take his last breaths on the morning of January 17, 2020. "He made noises as the air was expelling from his body," she said in court, according to PIX 11.
Tyrene said that Michael tried to revive Thomas, who was lying naked in the home's basement. The father did chest compressions to revive the child, who was "very cold" and seemed blue in color, she said, as per People. Michael wiped tears from his face while their former housekeeper narrated the events. "He was very blue ... his lips were blue," she said.
The former housekeeper also added that their family dog, Bella, slept in a heated room, where the cleaning supplies used to be kept. Prosecutors said that the 8-year-old was forced to sleep in the garage after soiling his pajamas.
Tyrene added that on the morning of January 17, 2020, paramedics arrived at the home and tried to save the child. "They pulled out those paddles and then they realized there was nothing happening," she said, recalling that they then "put a silver blanket on him" before carrying him to the ambulance. She also added that her employer had changed his clothes before getting into the ambulance to ride with his son.
Michael's defense attorney has questioned whether detectives had permission to search the former police officer's home. The investigators had found home security cameras used by the couple to monitor their children. The camera found in the garage was labeled "kids room." Just two nights before the child died, the camera captured Thomas and his older brother, Anthony, shivering while sleeping on the floor of the freezing garage, prosecutors said.
The day the child died, he was seen allegedly falling over and "face-planting" on the floor of the garage. In an audio recording from that morning, his brother can be heard asking, "Why can't Thomas walk?"
2) No words can describe the severity of their horrible ordeal that most of us adults would not be able to survive...Everyday Anthony and Andrew tremendously miss their brother Tommy and wish he was present to spend time with our family.— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) July 18, 2020
"When you're washed with cold water and it's freezing, you get hypothermia," replied Angela, prosecutors said, citing the recording.
Prior to the child's death, his mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, had unsuccessfully appealed to the state to have her three kids removed from the home of her estranged husband, as per ABC News.
Cop father forbids the children from coming to their mommy by painfully squeezing their hands and making them cry in order to prove that children do not want to come to their mommy. The father of my kids is a cop who is allowed to abuse bis children #PoliceBrutality pic.twitter.com/dIL30Eox30— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) January 19, 2018
In January 2020, protestors had rallied outside the family court and sought the removal of the three judges that oversaw the case. However, a spokesperson for the court system had said that "no one understands the complexities that lead to the decisions made by the judges."
The custody battle had been ongoing since 2018. A GoFundMe has been set up "to benefit the family of Thomas Valva. His mother, 2 brothers, and entire extended family here and abroad have an extremely long road ahead of them."
Cover image source: GoFundMe