Skip to content

Long Island Father, Ex-NYPD Cop Sentenced in Son’s Death – NBC New York

A former NYPD officer was sentenced Thursday to 25 years to life after being convicted of murder last month in the January 2020 death of his 8-year-old son, Thomas, who was forced to sleep in the family’s freezing Long Island garage.

The jury of eight women and four men found Michael Valva guilty of murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in early November after seven hours of deliberations. The gut-wrenching trial lasted five weeks.

Suffolk County prosecutors argued the 45-year-old exiled Thomas to the garage as temperatures plunged below 20 degrees during that winter night nearly three years ago.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney called the case “heartbreaking” and one of the toughest he has experienced in nearly 30 years as a prosecutor.

“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,” Tierney said in a statement. “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,” he added. “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.”

Thomas Valva and his older brother Anthony had spent 16 hours in that garage with no heat, no bathroom access, no mattress and no blankets on a night when the temperature outside plunged, according to prosecutors. Thomas Valva woke up on the cement floor, had an accident and soiled his pants.

Home surveillance camera evidence submitted at trial showed his father screaming at him, threatening him and ordering him outside in the subfreezing temperatures to hose him down with water. Thomas Valva lost consciousness and fell face first, several times, into the backyard concrete paver patio. Prosecutors say his father delayed calling 911 for at least an hour. By the time his son got to the hospital his body temperature was 76.1 degrees.

He died as a result of complications from hypothermia.

Defense attorney Anthony Lapinta had tried to argue that it was Michael Valva’s former fiancee, Angelina Pollina, who had the idea to put the brothers, both with autism, in the garage as punishment for urinating and defecating in the house. Lapinta said Michael Valva cared about his children and didn’t want them to die. He said it was an accident.

Michael Valva sobbed in court Thursday as he apologized.

Pollina has also been charged with murder in the case and previously pleaded not guilty. Her trial is expected to start in February. 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.

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’ mother, as 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.