Michael Valva is photographed inside Suffolk County Court in Riverhead...

Michael Valva is photographed inside Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Sept. 12. Credit: James Carbone

A trio of East Moriches schoolteachers of Thomas and Anthony Valva sobbed on the witness stand Thursday as they described the young boys arriving at school bruised, beaten, shivering and crying from hunger and pain in the years leading up to Thomas' 2020 hypothermia death, during the murder trial of the boys' father, ex-NYPD Officer Michael Valva. 

"They didn't look like the same children," East Moriches Elementary School teacher Nicole Papa said tearfully, comparing the boys in the 2018-2019 school year to the previous school year. "They were not the same. … When you would hug them, you could feel their bones."

She was one of three teachers who testified in vivid and excruciating detail Thursday in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, describing horrific allegations of abuse of the young boys. Several jurors had pained expressions on their faces as the teachers described Anthony eating crumbs off the floor, Thomas having a "beat up" face and Anthony with a black eye. 

Teacher Jennifer Holborow displayed for the jury photographs that she took of Anthony with scratches on his nose and dried blood in his nostrils, and what she said appeared to be marks on his wrists from the boy being tied up.

"I'm sorry, I'm shaking," said a tearful Holborow as she held up one of the photographs of Anthony's face as she stood in front of the jury box. 

Valva, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in connection to 8-year-old Thomas' Jan. 17, 2020 hypothermia death and the alleged abuse of Anthony, then 10, did not appear to show any emotion during the hours of wrenching testimony.

Prosecutors have alleged that Thomas died after Valva, 43, and his then-fiancee Angela Pollina, 45, forced the boys to sleep in the garage in 19-degree weather, and for several months previously. Prosecutors have also alleged the boys were starved and beaten. Pollina has also pleaded not guilty and is set to be tried later.

Valva's defense attorneys have argued their client was a caring father who made mistakes in disciplining his children, but never wanted Thomas to die. 

Papa also told the jury that she confronted Child Protective Services caseworkers at an East Moriches faculty meeting in March 2019, after already reporting to the child welfare agency that the brothers were frequently coming to school hungry and cold.

"I stood up angrily and said, 'I don't understand. We have a family in this school district who are abusing children. We're calling you. You're finding it unfounded,'" said Papa, a 24-year veteran of the school district.

The teachers described the brothers as “very bright.” Thomas “loved school” and Anthony had an "amazing oral reading voice" and often volunteered to read aloud. He was the first in his class to receive the much-coveted multiplication crown after mastering the topic, a proud moment for both Anthony and his teachers. 

But Thomas and Anthony both began crying to Papa that they hadn’t been fed breakfast and were hungry during their first months at the school, in 2017. Papa said the boys told her they weren’t fed because they didn’t “use my words” or verbally greet Pollina or call her “mommy.”

“They just came in so distraught,” Papa said. “You can’t start your day like that.”
Additionally, Papa said, the lunches the boys brought from home, which typically consisted of half a Nutella sandwich and some snacks and a bottle of water, were not enough to sustain them. 

Papa, who said she provided the boys with snacks throughout the day, said she told Valva and Pollina that the boys needed more food for lunch.

The pair responded, according to Papa, "the boys pick out their own lunch and their snack."

During a January 2018 meeting with Valva and Pollina, as well as the school psychologist and speech teacher, Papa said she explained to them that "using food as a consequence is not appropriate" and she said she offered to assist the parents with tools that would make their morning routine run more smoothly.

"Mr. Valva seemed amicable to it," Papa said. "But he never followed through."

Holborow, who has been a teacher for 28 years and taught Anthony in third grade, described giving Anthony a red, hooded sweatshirt to wear in class because he was “cold and shivering” on the second day of school in September. She laundered it on the weekends, she said.

When she asked Valva about getting Anthony, who “would sometimes beg not to have to go outside” for recess, a new pair of gloves because his were “sort of like a toddler size” and had “a lot of rips and holes in them,” Valva was not receptive, Holborow said.

"He said Anthony was the one that ripped those gloves, so he could have those gloves,” Holborow said.

Katelyn Edwards, a special-education teacher who taught Anthony in fourth grade, testified that on Sept. 13, 2019, she and Anthony, who was wearing a sweatshirt that she provided for him to wear in the class because he perpetually complained of being cold, encountered Pollina at the school.

"Whose sweatshirt is that?" Pollina said twice, according to Edwards. "That's not his sweatshirt."

Edwards said she explained to Pollina that she had let Anthony wear it.

"She looked me dead in the face and said, 'He should be used to a cold house, my house is freezing.’”

A trio of East Moriches schoolteachers of Thomas and Anthony Valva sobbed on the witness stand Thursday as they described the young boys arriving at school bruised, beaten, shivering and crying from hunger and pain in the years leading up to Thomas' 2020 hypothermia death, during the murder trial of the boys' father, ex-NYPD Officer Michael Valva. 

"They didn't look like the same children," East Moriches Elementary School teacher Nicole Papa said tearfully, comparing the boys in the 2018-2019 school year to the previous school year. "They were not the same. … When you would hug them, you could feel their bones."

Nicole Papa, special education teacher at East Moriches Elementary School,...

Nicole Papa, special education teacher at East Moriches Elementary School, at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Thursday. Credit: James Carbone

She was one of three teachers who testified in vivid and excruciating detail Thursday in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, describing horrific allegations of abuse of the young boys. Several jurors had pained expressions on their faces as the teachers described Anthony eating crumbs off the floor, Thomas having a "beat up" face and Anthony with a black eye. 

Teacher Jennifer Holborow displayed for the jury photographs that she took of Anthony with scratches on his nose and dried blood in his nostrils, and what she said appeared to be marks on his wrists from the boy being tied up.

"I'm sorry, I'm shaking," said a tearful Holborow as she held up one of the photographs of Anthony's face as she stood in front of the jury box. 

Valva, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in connection to 8-year-old Thomas' Jan. 17, 2020 hypothermia death and the alleged abuse of Anthony, then 10, did not appear to show any emotion during the hours of wrenching testimony.

Prosecutors have alleged that Thomas died after Valva, 43, and his then-fiancee Angela Pollina, 45, forced the boys to sleep in the garage in 19-degree weather, and for several months previously. Prosecutors have also alleged the boys were starved and beaten. Pollina has also pleaded not guilty and is set to be tried later.

Valva's defense attorneys have argued their client was a caring father who made mistakes in disciplining his children, but never wanted Thomas to die. 

Papa also told the jury that she confronted Child Protective Services caseworkers at an East Moriches faculty meeting in March 2019, after already reporting to the child welfare agency that the brothers were frequently coming to school hungry and cold.

"I stood up angrily and said, 'I don't understand. We have a family in this school district who are abusing children. We're calling you. You're finding it unfounded,'" said Papa, a 24-year veteran of the school district.

The teachers described the brothers as “very bright.” Thomas “loved school” and Anthony had an "amazing oral reading voice" and often volunteered to read aloud. He was the first in his class to receive the much-coveted multiplication crown after mastering the topic, a proud moment for both Anthony and his teachers. 

But Thomas and Anthony both began crying to Papa that they hadn’t been fed breakfast and were hungry during their first months at the school, in 2017. Papa said the boys told her they weren’t fed because they didn’t “use my words” or verbally greet Pollina or call her “mommy.”

“They just came in so distraught,” Papa said. “You can’t start your day like that.”
Additionally, Papa said, the lunches the boys brought from home, which typically consisted of half a Nutella sandwich and some snacks and a bottle of water, were not enough to sustain them. 

Papa, who said she provided the boys with snacks throughout the day, said she told Valva and Pollina that the boys needed more food for lunch.

The pair responded, according to Papa, "the boys pick out their own lunch and their snack."

During a January 2018 meeting with Valva and Pollina, as well as the school psychologist and speech teacher, Papa said she explained to them that "using food as a consequence is not appropriate" and she said she offered to assist the parents with tools that would make their morning routine run more smoothly.

"Mr. Valva seemed amicable to it," Papa said. "But he never followed through."

Jennifer Holborow, a teacher at East Moriches Elementary School, arrives...

Jennifer Holborow, a teacher at East Moriches Elementary School, arrives at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead to testify in the trial of defendant Michael Valva on Thursday. Credit: James Carbone

Holborow, who has been a teacher for 28 years and taught Anthony in third grade, described giving Anthony a red, hooded sweatshirt to wear in class because he was “cold and shivering” on the second day of school in September. She laundered it on the weekends, she said.

When she asked Valva about getting Anthony, who “would sometimes beg not to have to go outside” for recess, a new pair of gloves because his were “sort of like a toddler size” and had “a lot of rips and holes in them,” Valva was not receptive, Holborow said.

"He said Anthony was the one that ripped those gloves, so he could have those gloves,” Holborow said.

Katelyn Edwards, a special-education teacher who taught Anthony in fourth grade, testified that on Sept. 13, 2019, she and Anthony, who was wearing a sweatshirt that she provided for him to wear in the class because he perpetually complained of being cold, encountered Pollina at the school.

Katelyn Edwards, a special education teacher at East Moriches Elementary...

Katelyn Edwards, a special education teacher at East Moriches Elementary School, arrives at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead to testify in the trial of defendant Michael Valva on Thursday. Credit: James Carbone

"Whose sweatshirt is that?" Pollina said twice, according to Edwards. "That's not his sweatshirt."

Edwards said she explained to Pollina that she had let Anthony wear it.

"She looked me dead in the face and said, 'He should be used to a cold house, my house is freezing.’”

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