At the murder trial of Michael Valva in Riverhead, Anthony Valva’s teacher testified on Friday that he was falling asleep in class and was eating off the gym floor under the bleachers. NewsdayTV’s Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp; File Footage; Photo Credit: Justyna Zubko-Valva

One of Anthony Valva's school teachers worried that the boy would die because of his declining physical condition in the days before his younger brother Thomas' 2020 hypothermia death, a witness testified Friday at the murder trial of the boys' father, ex-NYPD Officer Michael Valva. 

Katelyn Edwards, who was Anthony's fourth grade teacher at East Moriches Elementary School, had cried a day earlier as she described to jurors her student's appearance — a pale face with sunken eyes and his slumped-over posture — at a time when Suffolk prosecutors said Valva had banished his sons to an unheated garage. 

"I had never seen a child anywhere look how he did coming through my door," said Edwards, adding that she was "thinking that one day he wasn't going to come back to me. ... I thought he was going to die." 

Michael Valva, inside Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Monday,...

Michael Valva, inside Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. Credit: James Carbone

Valva, who is on trial in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in connection with Thomas' death and the alleged abuse of Anthony, then 10. 

Prosecutors have said Valva, 43, and his ex-fiancee Angela Pollina, 45, allegedly forced both boys to sleep in the unheated garage of their Center Moriches home in frigid temperatures. Pollina has also pleaded not guilty and will be tried at a later date.

Valva defense attorneys have said their client was a caring and involved father who should be found not guilty of murder because he never thought Thomas would die from sleeping in the garage.

Lead defense attorney John LoTurco, speaking after Friday’s proceedings, said he’s planning to call “multiple” defense witnesses to present Valva’s defense to the jury. Prosecutors said they would likely finish presenting their case Thursday.

During Friday’s cross-examination, Edwards verbally sparred with Valva defense attorney Anthony LaPinta when she was asked about her earlier testimony.

Under questioning by La Pinta, Edwards admitted she didn't tell the principal or didn't write in her log books, where she said she chronicled Anthony's condition and his food intake, that she feared Anthony would die. 

"Well, if you thought he was going to die, why wouldn't you?" La Pinta asked, before withdrawing the question. 

Asked if she had reached out to the police, Edwards mentioned an alleged incident which Supreme Court Justice William Condon, in response to a defense objection earlier in the trial, had barred prosecutors from asking witnesses about.

"After the incident in September when a gun was brought to our school," Edwards said, referencing prosecution allegations that Valva “openly displayed” his service weapon “on his hip” during an open house at the elementary school in 2019.

Edwards' remarks about the gun incident prompted a lengthy sidebar conference between the attorneys and the judge. 

"The court granted our application to strike the record of Ms. Edward's testimony referencing a gun pursuant to the prior ruling that such evidence was irrelevant and inadmissible," LoTurco said in a text message when asked for details of the sidebar. "In the event, the jury requests a read-back of her testimony during deliberations, it will not appear as part of the record." 

La Pinta also questioned Edwards about Jan. 9, 2020 emails between the teacher and Valva, an apparent attempt to highlight an exchange between a seemingly involved father and his son’s teacher. She had written to Valva because of her concerns that Anthony was eating food off the floor and was sleeping for hours in her classroom, she testified.

“Responding to an email doesn’t make him a good father,” Edwards told the defense attorney.

“I didn’t say that,” La Pinta shot back.

The trial continues in Riverhead on Monday.

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