A former NYPD officer was found guilty of murder in the death of his 8-year-old son, who was forced to sleep in the family’s freezing Long Island garage in January 2020.
Following a gut-wrenching five-week trial, the jury found Michael Valva guilty after seven hours of deliberation on Friday. In addition to second-degree murder, jurors — eight women and four men — had been weighing charges including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the case of Thomas Valva, who died after Suffolk County prosecutors say his allegedly depraved father exiled him to the garage as temperatures plunged below 20 degrees.
Valva was found guilty on five counts, including murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Sentencing was set for Dec. 8. He faces 25 years to life in prison.
After the verdict, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney called the case “heartbreaking” and one of the toughest he’s experienced for all involved. Prosecutors said the verdict gives young Thomas a small amount of justice.
“This guilty verdict will not bring back 8-year-old Thomas, who suffered immense cruelty at the hands of his father, the same person who was entrusted to protect, provide and unconditionally love Thomas and his older brother Anthony,” Tierney said in a statement. “No child should ever have to endure such evil acts. While there is nothing that we can do to bring Thomas back, we are satisfied with the jury’s decision. Michael Valva subjected his sons to horrific abuse, neglect and cruelty. He will now pay for cutting short the life of a young, innocent, defenseless boy who had a lifetime ahead of him.”
Thomas Valva and his older brother Anthony had spent 16 hours in that garage with no heat, on a night when the temperature outside plunged, according to prosecutors. Thomas’ body temperature was 76 degrees when he died.
The brothers, both with autism, were in that garage he said as punishment for constant urinating and defecating in the house. The idea to put the children out there came from Valva’s then-fiancée, Angela Polina, the defense alleged.
“Michael Valva did care about his kids and did not want them to die,” defense attorney Anthony Lapinta said previosuly, calling Thomas’ death accidental.
Polina has also been charged with murder in the case and previously pleaded not guilty. Her trial date has not yet been set. Lapinta described her as a “demanding, controlling girlfriend who forced the boys to live outside the house.”
Prosecutors showed extensive surveillance video from inside the home, and argued that the two young boys had been beaten and starved for years.
Valva’s attorneys had asked he jury to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter, saying that Valva didn’t think Thomas would die in the garage. But the jury was not convinced.
Thomas Valva’s mother stood just a few feet away from the two people accused of killing the 8-year-old boy, his NYPD officer father and his fiancee. She was in court as she continues her fight for permanent custody of her children. NBC New York’s Greg Cergol reports.
In the days after Thomas died, investigators unraveled a disturbing series of allegations — repeat, extreme punishment, starvation, being locked in a frigid garage for hours — at the hands of his father and his then-fiancee.
Then came blistering condemnation from Thomas’ motheras the boy’s death exposed alleged severe frailties within the family court system that enabled an alleged sustained pattern of abuse that took her son’s life.
She did not attend the trial.