New York police officer Michael Valva and his former fiancé attended an emotionally raw pre-trial hearing on Monday that delved into their respective roles in Thomas Valva’s death.
Thomas, 8, died on January 17, 2020 after he was forced to spend the night in Valva’s freezing garage as punishment for allegedly soiling his pajamas. The temperature on that winter night dropped to 19 degrees and medical evidence revealed that Thomas died of hypothermia by the next morning.
Monday’s testimony revealed that on the morning of January 17, Valva’s housekeeper Tyrene Rodriguez arrived to find Valva’s fiancé Angela Pollina working on bills in the kitchen. The two made small talk for a few minutes before Rodriguez heard a child crying from the garage.
“I asked her who was crying; she said ‘Thomas is. He fell running for the bus,'” Rodriguez said. When she expressed concern, Pollina reportedly told Rodriguez that Thomas would be okay.
Rodriguez began to clean a small bathroom on the first floor of the home, but soon heard the garage door open.
“And then I looked over my right shoulder, and I saw Mike, Thomas and Angela,” Rodriguez stated. “[Thomas] was being, like, escorted between both of them, but he was in front of them.” She continued cleaning until a commotion broke out near the basement stairs. Pollina rushed into the bathroom and told Rodriguez that Thomas wasn’t breathing.
According to Rodriguez’s testimony, Valva called 911 and reported that his son had stopped breathing after suffering a bad fall.
“I need an ambulance immediately. My son stopped breathing. Fell down, banged his head. I gave him a shower to try to help him out a little bit,” Valva said on the 911 recording, which was played during the pre-trial hearing to determine whether or not it was permissible to use in court.
However, a nasty fall didn’t cause Thomas to lose consciousness. Instead, Rodriguez revealed on Monday that the little boy showed signs of hypothermia.
“He was completely naked,” Rodriguez told the court. “He was very blue. His lips were blue.”
During the hearing, prosecutors stated that the family dog Bella was known to stay in the heated mud room while Thomas and his brother were forced to sleep in the cold garage.
Thomas’ mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, had lost custody of her sons in a bitter divorce with Valva. On Monday, she testified that her sons had been abused by their father for years and that Suffolk County Child Protective Services and other Long Island officials had been ignoring their signs of starvation, abuse and neglect. As a result, Zubko-Valva has filed a $200 million lawsuit against Suffolk CPS for the damages they indirectly caused.
The pre-trial hearing is set to continue next Monday and the actual trial is scheduled to begin in September. It is currently unknown whether or not Pollina will testify against Valva and/or if the former couple will have joint or separate trials.