Michael Valva will be back in a Suffolk County courtroom Thursday when the ex-NYPD officer is set to be sentenced for the murder of his 8-year-old son Thomas, who died from hypothermia after Valva forced the child to sleep in an unheated garage in sub-freezing temperatures.
Supreme Court Justice William Condon, who presided over Valva’s Riverhead trial, is scheduled to sentence the former cop Thursday morning. Convicted of the top charge of second-degree murder, Valva could receive a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in an Upstate prison.
“Michael Valva is a convicted murderer,” said Jon Norinsberg, the attorney for Thomas’ mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva. “He should spend the rest of his life in jail. Nothing will ever bring Tommy back, but knowing that Valva will never be free again would at least be a small measure of justice for the family.”
Valva’s lead defense attorney John LoTurco declined to say whether Valva planned to address the court – an option given to all criminal defendants – before he is sentenced. LoTurco also declined to disclose what sentencing recommendation the defense would make to the judge.
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office also declined to comment on its proposed sentence.
A jury convicted Valva, 43, of Center Moriches, last month of second-degree murder and four misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the Jan. 17, 2020 death of Thomas and the abuse of Thomas and his brother Anthony, who was 10 years old at the time.
The jury, after some six weeks of trial testimony, determined that Valva forced Thomas to sleep in a freezing garage when the low temperature was just 19 degrees, failed to summon timely medical help and then lied to the first responders and doctors who tried to save his son’s life. Thomas’ body temperature was 76.1 degrees minutes before he was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Video from a surveillance camera system inside the then-couple’s home, which was displayed for the jury at trial, showed Thomas and Anthony sleeping on the floor of the garage, and also eating and doing homework in the unheated structure before Thomas’ death. Prosecutors had alleged the boys, who were both on the autism spectrum, were banished to the garage as a form of punishment.
Trial testimony and evidence also established that Valva beat his sons and they scrounged for food at school in the two years before Thomas died while the boys attended the East Moriches school district.
The jury also heard Valva and his then-fiancee, Angela Pollina, who is also charged in Thomas’ death, in their own words on the morning of Thomas’ death, with Valva mocking his son for being cold and apparently striking him and asking “are you alive?” as captured on audio from video footage. Pollina, at one point, declared Thomas was “hypothermic,” according to the audio recordings heard during the trial.
Valva’s defense attorneys had argued Thomas’ death was a tragic accident and Valva was a loving and involved father who tried to save his son’s life by calling 911 and performing CPR. It was Pollina who demanded the boys sleep in the garage, the defense argued, and Valva only agreed to appease her because he was under financial distress as he battled the boy’s mother in their divorce proceedings.
Prosecutors alleged Valva waited about an hour to call 911 and the boy was already dead when first responders arrived at the home.
Pollina, 45, is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 21 on the same charges. Prosecutors have alleged that Pollina and Valva “acted in concert” in connection with Thomas’ death.
LoTurco said his team has decided not to file a motion under criminal procedure law 330, which would seek to overturn Valva’s conviction.
“After careful consideration, including consultation with appellate counsel, we have elected not to file a pre-sentencing memorandum or a CPL 330 motion,” LoTurco said. “After speaking with appellate counsel it was determined that we properly preserved our client’s potential appellate issues with timely objections, and written memorandums during and before the trial commenced. We therefore concluded a CPL 330 would be duplicative and unnecessary to preserve Michael’s appellate arguments.”
The defense could still choose to appeal Valva’s sentence.
Some of the jurors are expected to attend Thursday’s proceeding.
“Being on the case was one of the most interesting things I’ve been a part of and we’ve all taken it very seriously since day one,” said juror Moises Lopez earlier this week. “I think we just wanted to be a part of it all the way until the end.”