Michael Valva appears in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Monday.

Michael Valva appears in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Monday. Credit: James Carbone

A jury of eight women and four men was selected Wednesday to decide the murder case against the ex-NYPD officer charged with the 2020 killing of his 8-year-old son, Thomas Valva, by allegedly forcing the boy to sleep in the unheated garage of their Center Moriches home.

Michael Valva, who has pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with Thomas' hypothermia death and the alleged abuse of one of his other sons, is set to go on trial this month in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.

Suffolk Supreme Court Justice William Condon on Wednesday, shortly after the jury was selected, said opening statements would begin Sept. 28 in what he warned jurors is expected to be an emotionally wrenching trial.

"It's not going to be easy to be on this jury," the judge told prospective jurors during the selection process, adding that jurors would hear from distraught witnesses and have to view Thomas' autopsy photos. "You're going to be upset." 

The final members of the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates were seated Wednesday afternoon, the sixth day of jury selection in the case.  Five men and one woman comprise the group of alternates.

One prospective juror, who was not chosen for the panel, had a parting comment for Valva as she walked by the defense on her way out of the courtroom. 

“Good luck,” the woman said, giving Valva a serious look.

Each juror vowed they would not be swayed by emotion and would base their verdict solely on the evidence presented at trial.

“We hope that the jury we selected will follow the letter of the law and will not be influenced by emotions,” said defense attorney Anthony La Pinta, who is representing Valva along with attorneys John LoTurco and Sabato Caponi. “We feel very confident that the facts of this case do not support a conviction for murder in the second degree.”

A spokeswoman for prosecutors Kerri Ann Kelly, Laura Newcombe and James Scahill has declined to comment before the trial.

Valva, 43, and his ex-fiancee, Angela Pollina, 45, have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the Jan. 17, 2020 hypothermia death of Thomas and the alleged abuse of his older brother, Anthony, then 10.

Prosecutors have alleged Thomas died after Valva and Pollina forced the child to sleep in the unheated garage of their Center Moriches home at night when it was just 19 degrees outside. Prosecutors have also alleged the boys were denied food and access to the bathroom, leading them to arrive at school in soiled clothing and to search for food in the trash. 

Valva's defense attorneys have argued Thomas' death was an accident and cast blame on Pollina, calling her a "wicked, cruel stepmother" who forced Thomas to sleep in the garage. His defense team has also said there was a heater in the garage.

Pollina's attorney has alleged it was Valva who caused his son's death by spraying him with cold water from a hose.

Jurors are expected to hear testimony from several Suffolk County police officers, homicide detectives, other emergency responders, medical professionals and Thomas’ school teachers.

Valva's attorneys have not said whether they plan to call witnesses, which they are not required to do, but a list of possible defense witnesses provided to the court included Michael Valva's mother, Stephanie Valva.

Michael Valva and Pollina were originally slated to go on trial at the same time with each defendant having their own jury, because of their antagonistic defenses.

But Condon ruled Monday that the pair would now have separate trials, after Valva alleged that he spoke about the facts of the case to Pollina's attorney Matthew Tuohy in a brief meeting before Tuohy represented Valva at his initial district court arraignment.

Valva's attorneys said the interaction could represent a conflict and hurt Valva's chance for a fair trial if Tuohy used information he learned during the conversation to assist in Pollina's defense.
Tuohy denied that he discussed the facts of the case with Valva.

A jury of eight women and four men was selected Wednesday to decide the murder case against the ex-NYPD officer charged with the 2020 killing of his 8-year-old son, Thomas Valva, by allegedly forcing the boy to sleep in the unheated garage of their Center Moriches home.

Michael Valva, who has pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with Thomas' hypothermia death and the alleged abuse of one of his other sons, is set to go on trial this month in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.

Suffolk Supreme Court Justice William Condon on Wednesday, shortly after the jury was selected, said opening statements would begin Sept. 28 in what he warned jurors is expected to be an emotionally wrenching trial.

"It's not going to be easy to be on this jury," the judge told prospective jurors during the selection process, adding that jurors would hear from distraught witnesses and have to view Thomas' autopsy photos. "You're going to be upset." 

The final members of the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates were seated Wednesday afternoon, the sixth day of jury selection in the case.  Five men and one woman comprise the group of alternates.

One prospective juror, who was not chosen for the panel, had a parting comment for Valva as she walked by the defense on her way out of the courtroom. 

“Good luck,” the woman said, giving Valva a serious look.

Each juror vowed they would not be swayed by emotion and would base their verdict solely on the evidence presented at trial.

“We hope that the jury we selected will follow the letter of the law and will not be influenced by emotions,” said defense attorney Anthony La Pinta, who is representing Valva along with attorneys John LoTurco and Sabato Caponi. “We feel very confident that the facts of this case do not support a conviction for murder in the second degree.”

A spokeswoman for prosecutors Kerri Ann Kelly, Laura Newcombe and James Scahill has declined to comment before the trial.

Valva, 43, and his ex-fiancee, Angela Pollina, 45, have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the Jan. 17, 2020 hypothermia death of Thomas and the alleged abuse of his older brother, Anthony, then 10.

Undated photograph of Thomas Valva.

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

Prosecutors have alleged Thomas died after Valva and Pollina forced the child to sleep in the unheated garage of their Center Moriches home at night when it was just 19 degrees outside. Prosecutors have also alleged the boys were denied food and access to the bathroom, leading them to arrive at school in soiled clothing and to search for food in the trash. 

Valva's defense attorneys have argued Thomas' death was an accident and cast blame on Pollina, calling her a "wicked, cruel stepmother" who forced Thomas to sleep in the garage. His defense team has also said there was a heater in the garage.

Pollina's attorney has alleged it was Valva who caused his son's death by spraying him with cold water from a hose.

Jurors are expected to hear testimony from several Suffolk County police officers, homicide detectives, other emergency responders, medical professionals and Thomas’ school teachers.

Valva's attorneys have not said whether they plan to call witnesses, which they are not required to do, but a list of possible defense witnesses provided to the court included Michael Valva's mother, Stephanie Valva.

Michael Valva and Pollina were originally slated to go on trial at the same time with each defendant having their own jury, because of their antagonistic defenses.

But Condon ruled Monday that the pair would now have separate trials, after Valva alleged that he spoke about the facts of the case to Pollina's attorney Matthew Tuohy in a brief meeting before Tuohy represented Valva at his initial district court arraignment.

Valva's attorneys said the interaction could represent a conflict and hurt Valva's chance for a fair trial if Tuohy used information he learned during the conversation to assist in Pollina's defense.
Tuohy denied that he discussed the facts of the case with Valva.

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