Sgt. Norberto Flores, who was the lead detective in Thomas Valva's death investigation, testified in Riverhead on Tuesday that in videos obtained from the home, he saw Thomas and his brother Anthony "in the garage on the concrete floor, shivering." NewsdayTV's Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez; File Footage; Photo Credit: Justyna Zubko-Valva

Eight-year-old Thomas Valva and his brother Anthony were captured on home surveillance video “shivering” on the bare concrete floor of the garage of their Center Moriches home the night before Thomas died from hypothermia, the lead homicide detective investigating Thomas’s death testified at the murder trial of Thomas' father, ex-NYPD officer Michael Valva.

"That was the first time I saw Anthony and Thomas in the garage on the concrete floor shivering," Norberto Flores, now an Internal Affairs sergeant, recalled from the witness stand. 

Flores, testifying inside a Riverhead courtroom Tuesday afternoon, said he viewed the video on the evening of Thomas' Jan. 17, 2020, death, at Suffolk police headquarters in Yaphank after another detective downloaded the video from the home's surveillance system. 

Flores told the jury he also watched other surveillance videos depicting "similar images of the children" and after alerting his supervisor, he notified Child Protective Services. Flores also called Valva "to let him know I was making a CPS referral," although he didn't tell Valva what he had seen in the videos, he said. 

Suffolk prosecutors are expected to play the videos on Wednesday.

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. 

Prosecutors have alleged Valva, 43, and his then-fiancee Angela Pollina, 45, forced Thomas and Anthony, who were both on the autism spectrum, to sleep in the unheated garage for months before Thomas died. Pollina has also pleaded not guilty and is set to be tried at a later date.

Prosecutors have alleged both Thomas and Anthony were also starved and beaten. The boys' teachers have testified that the brothers frequently went to school hungry and sometimes ate food from the floor and trash. The brothers also sometimes came to school with signs of injury, such as bruises and scrapes, the teachers testified, and frequently said they were cold and had red hands.

Valva's defense attorneys have argued that Valva should not be convicted of second-degree murder under the theory of "depraved indifference" because Valva cared for his children and never intended for his son to die. He only agreed to the boys sleeping in the garage to appease Pollina, who despised the boys because they were autistic and had incontinence problems, the lawyers have said. 

Flores also described for the jury how he interviewed Valva for about a half-hour at Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue on the morning that Thomas died.

Prosecutors have said Valva lied to police and first responders when he alleged Thomas fell in the driveway, and alternately hit his head on a door frame, before falling unconscious on the morning he died. 

Valva, during the hospital interview, told the then-homicide detective that Thomas had gotten dressed in his bedroom, went downstairs and then went outside at about 8:40 a.m., leaving through the garage door, "to play on the driveway," Flores testified. 

Flores said Valva told him he stood in the doorway watching, but while he was briefly distracted, "he noticed Thomas had fallen" face-first and was "pushing himself up." 

"He stated that he ran toward Thomas, who was crying and bleeding from scrapes on his face," Flores said. 

Valva, who Flores said spoke in a "matter-of-fact" manner during the interview about an hour after Thomas was pronounced dead at 10:28 a.m., said he took Thomas inside the garage to clean him up after he realized the boy had soiled himself.

Valva said he took Thomas into the basement bathroom and began showering him, but the boy appeared "a bit wobbly" and complained that he was cold, Flores said, adding that Valva then said he turned the shower into a warm bath. 

Valva then went upstairs to find Pollina and they returned about five minutes later to find Thomas unconscious and "slumped to the side of the tub," Flores testified. 

Valva told Flores that he took Thomas out of the bath, wrapped him in blankets, checked his pulse and then called 911, Flores said. He also began administering CPR to his son, who was then on a couch. 

Valva, without prompting, told Flores that there were CPS reports about his children, Flores told the jury.

"He told me that all the cases would be unfounded," Flores said, adding that Valva told him that the East Moriches school district had the highest number of reports to CPS in the state.

Earlier Tuesday, prosecutors entered into evidence a stipulation that Suffolk County Crime Laboratory forensic scientist Elizabeth Sepulveda — had she been called to the stand — would have testified that Thomas’ DNA was found on several stains that police found at the Valva home on Jan. 24, 2020 — the day Valva and Pollina were arrested and police executed a search warrant at the home.

The trial continues in Riverhead on Wednesday.

Eight-year-old Thomas Valva and his brother Anthony were captured on home surveillance video “shivering” on the bare concrete floor of the garage of their Center Moriches home the night before Thomas died from hypothermia, the lead homicide detective investigating Thomas’s death testified at the murder trial of Thomas' father, ex-NYPD officer Michael Valva.

"That was the first time I saw Anthony and Thomas in the garage on the concrete floor shivering," Norberto Flores, now an Internal Affairs sergeant, recalled from the witness stand. 

Flores, testifying inside a Riverhead courtroom Tuesday afternoon, said he viewed the video on the evening of Thomas' Jan. 17, 2020, death, at Suffolk police headquarters in Yaphank after another detective downloaded the video from the home's surveillance system. 

Flores told the jury he also watched other surveillance videos depicting "similar images of the children" and after alerting his supervisor, he notified Child Protective Services. Flores also called Valva "to let him know I was making a CPS referral," although he didn't tell Valva what he had seen in the videos, he said. 

Suffolk prosecutors are expected to play the videos on Wednesday.

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. 

Prosecutors have alleged Valva, 43, and his then-fiancee Angela Pollina, 45, forced Thomas and Anthony, who were both on the autism spectrum, to sleep in the unheated garage for months before Thomas died. Pollina has also pleaded not guilty and is set to be tried at a later date.

Prosecutors have alleged both Thomas and Anthony were also starved and beaten. The boys' teachers have testified that the brothers frequently went to school hungry and sometimes ate food from the floor and trash. The brothers also sometimes came to school with signs of injury, such as bruises and scrapes, the teachers testified, and frequently said they were cold and had red hands.

Michael Valva listens to his attorney at the Suffolk County Court...

Michael Valva listens to his attorney at the Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Sept. 12. Credit: James Carbone

Valva's defense attorneys have argued that Valva should not be convicted of second-degree murder under the theory of "depraved indifference" because Valva cared for his children and never intended for his son to die. He only agreed to the boys sleeping in the garage to appease Pollina, who despised the boys because they were autistic and had incontinence problems, the lawyers have said. 

Flores also described for the jury how he interviewed Valva for about a half-hour at Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue on the morning that Thomas died.

Prosecutors have said Valva lied to police and first responders when he alleged Thomas fell in the driveway, and alternately hit his head on a door frame, before falling unconscious on the morning he died. 

Valva, during the hospital interview, told the then-homicide detective that Thomas had gotten dressed in his bedroom, went downstairs and then went outside at about 8:40 a.m., leaving through the garage door, "to play on the driveway," Flores testified. 

Flores said Valva told him he stood in the doorway watching, but while he was briefly distracted, "he noticed Thomas had fallen" face-first and was "pushing himself up." 

"He stated that he ran toward Thomas, who was crying and bleeding from scrapes on his face," Flores said. 

Valva, who Flores said spoke in a "matter-of-fact" manner during the interview about an hour after Thomas was pronounced dead at 10:28 a.m., said he took Thomas inside the garage to clean him up after he realized the boy had soiled himself.

Undated photograph of Thomas Valva

Undated photograph of Thomas Valva Credit: Courtesy Justyna Zubko-Valva

Valva said he took Thomas into the basement bathroom and began showering him, but the boy appeared "a bit wobbly" and complained that he was cold, Flores said, adding that Valva then said he turned the shower into a warm bath. 

Valva then went upstairs to find Pollina and they returned about five minutes later to find Thomas unconscious and "slumped to the side of the tub," Flores testified. 

Valva told Flores that he took Thomas out of the bath, wrapped him in blankets, checked his pulse and then called 911, Flores said. He also began administering CPR to his son, who was then on a couch. 

Valva, without prompting, told Flores that there were CPS reports about his children, Flores told the jury.

"He told me that all the cases would be unfounded," Flores said, adding that Valva told him that the East Moriches school district had the highest number of reports to CPS in the state.

Earlier Tuesday, prosecutors entered into evidence a stipulation that Suffolk County Crime Laboratory forensic scientist Elizabeth Sepulveda — had she been called to the stand — would have testified that Thomas’ DNA was found on several stains that police found at the Valva home on Jan. 24, 2020 — the day Valva and Pollina were arrested and police executed a search warrant at the home.

The trial continues in Riverhead on Wednesday.

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