Michael Valva is on trial on a second-degree murder charge in the...

Michael Valva is on trial on a second-degree murder charge in the death of his 8-year-old son, Thomas Valva. Credit: James Carbone

Surveillance video recorded at 8-year-old Thomas Valva’s Center Moriches home leading up to his 2020 hypothermia death was deleted hours after he died, a police detective testified Tuesday. 

Det. Guy Gerig, a 34-year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Department, told jurors that he was given the username and password to access the cloud-based surveillance system by a homicide detective on Jan. 17, 2020 — the day Thomas died — but once he got into the system, “most” of the footage from that day was gone.

“Footage on most of the cameras prior to 1 p.m. had been erased,” Gerig said on the stand in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead. “I could see, again prior to 1 p.m., any footage prior to that, just wasn’t there.”

Thomas' father, Michael Valva, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in the death of Thomas and the alleged abuse of his eldest son, Anthony, then 10. Both boys were on the autism spectrum but were high-functioning, prosecutors have said. Valva’s ex-fiancee, Angela Pollina, 45, has also pleaded not guilty to the charges and is set to be tried separately.

Prosecutors have alleged that Valva, 43, an ex-NYPD officer, and Pollina forced Thomas to sleep in the home’s garage when the temperature was just 19 degrees outside. Before Thomas died, prosecutors said, he had spent 16 hours in the unheated garage.

Valva lied to police and emergency responders, prosecutors have alleged, when he said Thomas was injured the morning of his death from a fall on his home’s driveway as he ran for the school bus. Prosecutors have said Thomas died from hypothermia.

Valva's attorneys have alleged that Valva never thought his son would die from sleeping in the garage and only agreed to the arrangement to please Pollina, who grew increasingly frustrated with the two boys' incontinence issues.

Gerig, under questioning by Suffolk Assistant District Attorney James Scahill, said the only footage that he was able to download from the Nest camera system from that day was from a camera labeled “Bella’s room.” Bella was the Valva family dog.

Gerig described how he worked for about six hours — from about 4 to 10 p.m. that day — downloading video clips from the system onto his computer at police headquarters in Yaphank.

At some point, Gerig testified, he was locked out of the system.

“In my opinion, it had been changed,” Gerig said, referring to the camera system’s password.

Valva defense attorneys have said it was Pollina’s camera system, and her username and password, so if any videos were erased or if the password was changed, it was not Valva’s doing.

Witness Patrick Aube, a network intrusion forensic analyst with the U.S. Secret Service, told the jury he extracted the cellphone data from both Valva and Pollina’s cellphones. Aube testified that the password to the system was changed that afternoon using a two-step verification process linked to Pollina’s phone. 

Aube, who is a former Southampton detective, also testified that the camera labeled the “kids’ room” — the garage where prosecutors have said Thomas and Anthony were forced to sleep — went offline at 3:47 p.m. the day Thomas died, and other cameras went dark soon after that.

Under cross-examination from Valva defense attorney Sabato Caponi, Aube acknowledged that Pollina sent Nest video to Valva, but Valva did not send video to his now former fiancee. 

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe, in her opening statement, told jurors they would hear audio from the morning of Thomas’ death taken from Bella’s room, in which she said Valva can he heard swearing at Thomas as well as other voices asking about Thomas’ condition.

Suffolk homicide Det. Michael Ronca testified previously that he obtained the username and password from Pollina.

The trial will be paused on Wednesday because of Yom Kippur, but testimony continues in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead Thursday morning.

Surveillance video recorded at 8-year-old Thomas Valva’s Center Moriches home leading up to his 2020 hypothermia death was deleted hours after he died, a police detective testified Tuesday. 

Det. Guy Gerig, a 34-year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Department, told jurors that he was given the username and password to access the cloud-based surveillance system by a homicide detective on Jan. 17, 2020 — the day Thomas died — but once he got into the system, “most” of the footage from that day was gone.

“Footage on most of the cameras prior to 1 p.m. had been erased,” Gerig said on the stand in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead. “I could see, again prior to 1 p.m., any footage prior to that, just wasn’t there.”

Thomas' father, Michael Valva, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in the death of Thomas and the alleged abuse of his eldest son, Anthony, then 10. Both boys were on the autism spectrum but were high-functioning, prosecutors have said. Valva’s ex-fiancee, Angela Pollina, 45, has also pleaded not guilty to the charges and is set to be tried separately.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A Suffolk detective testified video from Thomas Valva's home the day he died was deleted.
  • The only footage not deleted came from family dog's room, the witness said.
  • The defense argued defendant Michael Valva's ex-fiancee controlled the surveillance system.

Prosecutors have alleged that Valva, 43, an ex-NYPD officer, and Pollina forced Thomas to sleep in the home’s garage when the temperature was just 19 degrees outside. Before Thomas died, prosecutors said, he had spent 16 hours in the unheated garage.

Valva lied to police and emergency responders, prosecutors have alleged, when he said Thomas was injured the morning of his death from a fall on his home’s driveway as he ran for the school bus. Prosecutors have said Thomas died from hypothermia.

Thomas Valva in an undated photo.

Thomas Valva in an undated photo.

Valva's attorneys have alleged that Valva never thought his son would die from sleeping in the garage and only agreed to the arrangement to please Pollina, who grew increasingly frustrated with the two boys' incontinence issues.

Gerig, under questioning by Suffolk Assistant District Attorney James Scahill, said the only footage that he was able to download from the Nest camera system from that day was from a camera labeled “Bella’s room.” Bella was the Valva family dog.

Gerig described how he worked for about six hours — from about 4 to 10 p.m. that day — downloading video clips from the system onto his computer at police headquarters in Yaphank.

At some point, Gerig testified, he was locked out of the system.

“In my opinion, it had been changed,” Gerig said, referring to the camera system’s password.

Valva defense attorneys have said it was Pollina’s camera system, and her username and password, so if any videos were erased or if the password was changed, it was not Valva’s doing.

Witness Patrick Aube, a network intrusion forensic analyst with the U.S. Secret Service, told the jury he extracted the cellphone data from both Valva and Pollina’s cellphones. Aube testified that the password to the system was changed that afternoon using a two-step verification process linked to Pollina’s phone. 

Aube, who is a former Southampton detective, also testified that the camera labeled the “kids’ room” — the garage where prosecutors have said Thomas and Anthony were forced to sleep — went offline at 3:47 p.m. the day Thomas died, and other cameras went dark soon after that.

Under cross-examination from Valva defense attorney Sabato Caponi, Aube acknowledged that Pollina sent Nest video to Valva, but Valva did not send video to his now former fiancee. 

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe, in her opening statement, told jurors they would hear audio from the morning of Thomas’ death taken from Bella’s room, in which she said Valva can he heard swearing at Thomas as well as other voices asking about Thomas’ condition.

Suffolk homicide Det. Michael Ronca testified previously that he obtained the username and password from Pollina.

The trial will be paused on Wednesday because of Yom Kippur, but testimony continues in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead Thursday morning.

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