Members of the Suffolk County jury that convicted Michael Valva of second-degree murder in the hypothermia death of his 8-year-old son, Thomas, attended his sentencing Thursday, saying they were hoping for closure and a hard sentence for the former New York City police officer.
Twelve of the 17 jurors and alternates who sat through six-plus weeks of testimony attended Thursday’s sentencing. Several of them later said they were happy that Supreme Court Justice William Condon sentenced Valva to 25 years to life in prison, the toughest sentence Condon could impose.
“He’s getting exactly what he deserved,” juror Scott Krusen of Coram said. “He’s a horrible human being.”
The jury convicted Valva on Nov. 4 of second-degree murder in the Jan. 17, 2020, hypothermia death of Thomas, and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child for the abuse of Thomas and his then-10-year-old brother, Anthony.
Condon handed down the sentence to Valva, 43, of Center Moriches, in a packed Riverhead courtroom that also included East Moriches teachers and school administrators who testified that Thomas and his brother Anthony frequently came to school hungry, bruised or in urine-soaked clothing.
“I have twins that are 11,” said Krusen, who served on the jury as an alternate. “They are two months older than Thomas and I couldn’t imagine any father doing what he did to his kids."
Juror Thomas Molloy said the trial was difficult for the jury because they were barred from discussing the evidence, which included video of Thomas and Anthony shivering as they slept on a concrete floor in an unheated garage in frigid weather. Another video showed Valva beating one of the boys. In text messages presented to the jury, Valva and his former fiancee, Angela Pollina — who is scheduled to go to trial in February on the same charges — mock and berate Valva’s sons.
“A very emotional trial, very, very emotional. I was distraught every day, especially because you couldn’t go home and talk about anything," said Molloy, of Rocky Point. "You had to keep everything inside, sealed up for six weeks. It was a very difficult thing to do.”
Molloy said he is still haunted by video presented at trial that shows Thomas as he was dying.
”You have occasional nightmares about it, too," he said. "It comes up in my sleep and in my dreams, absolutely.”
Juror Christina Anselmo of Setauket said she was surprised to hear Valva make a sob-filled statement expressing remorse about Thomas’ death because the defendant appeared to show little emotion during the trial.
"I believe there is some remorse there,” Anselmo said. “I don’t think he intended on that happening, but he sure enough didn’t do anything to stop it.
“I think we all feel a sense of closure right now,” Anselmo added. “We were so emotionally invested in this for so long. It was a big part of our lives. We gave up a lot of time with our families and at our jobs. We felt like we needed to come here today and see an end to it.”