Former New York City police officer Michael Valva was sentenced Thursday to 25 years to life in prison for forcing his 8-year-old son to sleep in a freezing garage, causing the boy to die of hypothermia in January 2020.
Valva, 43, of Center Moriches, was convicted in November after a Suffolk County jury deliberated for less than a day, finding him guilty of second-degree murder and four counts of child endangerment following a five-week-long trial at county court in Riverhead.
“This case is heartbreaking, and it has been one of the toughest child abuse trials for our prosecutors, court personnel and jurors,” Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney said. “No child should ever have to endure such evil acts.”
The boy, Thomas Valva, died after being left to sleep in the unheated garage of the house overnight when the temperature dropped to 19 degrees. Suffolk County police officers responded to Valva and his fiance’s Bittersweet Lane home at 9:40 a.m. Jan. 17, 2020, when the father initially told responding officers that the boy was unconscious after hitting his head while walking to the bus stop on his way to school.
The child, who reportedly had autism, was taken to Long Island Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His body temperature was 76 degrees at the time. He also had injuries that did not appear to be from a fall, police said.
Homicide Squad detectives found evidence that Thomas and his 10-year-old brother Anthony were subjected to extreme forms of punishment. The couple’s four other children were removed from the home after their arrest. The NYPD fired Valva, who joined the force in 2005 and was assigned to transit.
The case sparked a county legislative probe, rallies and reforms of the county’s Child Protective Services agency, which critics blamed for not removing the children from the home sooner after concerned school officials called in tips about the boys being neglected.
The ex-cop’s 44-year-old fiancée, Angela Pollina, was also charged with second-degree murder and child endangerment. She pleaded not guilty and her case is pending a trial at a later date, and she has been held without bail since her and Valva’s arrests in 2020.