Eight-year-old Thomas Valva died more than 2½ years ago. His father, Michael Valva, and Michael's ex-fiancée, Angela Pollina, both charged with murder, will soon be on trial. NewsdayTV’s Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas; File Footage; Photo Credit: Justyna Zubko-Valva

Thomas Valva was so hungry that he scrounged for food in trash cans at his elementary school. Before his 2020 death from hypothermia, the 8-year-old boy had missing hair, was bruised and walked with a limp. On surveillance video seized from his Center Moriches home, Thomas shivered visibly on the cement floor of his father’s garage in the dead of winter. There was no blanket to keep him warm.

These are some of the allegations that Suffolk County prosecutors have made and are expected to present to jurors during the upcoming murder trial of Thomas’ father, Michael Valva, an ex-NYPD officer, and the cop’s ex-fiancee, Angela Pollina. They both have pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection is expected to begin Wednesday in Riverhead to select two separate juries to consider the case, more than 2½ years after Thomas' death in a house on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches that prosecutors have labeled a "house of horrors."

Valva, 43, and Pollina, 45, pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and child endangerment in Thomas' death and the alleged abuse of his older brother Anthony, who was 10 years old at the time.

Thomas, who was on the autism spectrum, died on Jan. 17, 2020, after he allegedly was forced by Valva and Pollina to sleep in an unheated garage in 19 degree weather, prosecutors have said.

Thomas' body temperature was just 76.1 degrees before he died, prosecutors have said. His cause of death was ruled as hypothermia. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Suffolk Supreme Court Justice William Condon, who is presiding over the case, has said the trial will take an estimated three months, including about a month to select two juries, each consisting of 12 jurors and six alternates. The prosecution has estimated it will call at least 36 witnesses to testify.

The judge ruled earlier that both defendants will be on trial at the same time, but each defendant will have its own jury, despite a defense push for the defendants to be tried separately.

In the walk-up to the trial, defense attorneys have cast blame on each other's clients.

Pollina's lawyer has alleged that it was Valva who sprayed the child with a cold water hose shortly before his death, and Valva's lawyers have said it was Pollina who forced Thomas to sleep in the garage.

Valva defense attorneys John LoTurco and Anthony LaPinta, in a written statement before jury selection, said their team is ready to go to trial.

“We appreciate the complex challenges of jury selection considering the tragic nature surrounding the case, and the extensive negative pretrial publicity," the statement said. "However, we are hopeful that we can select a fair and impartial jury in Suffolk County by having thoughtful, honest and meaningful conversations with prospective jurors."

The attorneys said they expect the jurors to examine the evidence carefully and the panel to find Valva didn't murder his son or put him at risk of death.

The attorneys didn't say whether Valva would take the stand.

LoTurco, in earlier comments, has called Thomas' death "a nightmarish accidental death and clearly not a murder."

On the night before Thomas died, LoTurco has said, the door separating the garage and access to the home was unlocked and there was a large electric space heater that was turned on inside the garage.

LoTurco also has cast Pollina as the "wicked, cruel stepmother" who "despised those autistic children" and "compelled them to be in the garage." 

Matthew Tuohy, the defense attorney for Pollina, said his client will take the stand.

“She’s 100% going to testify, 100%,” Tuohy told Newsday in a recent interview. “She’s got nothing to hide, nothing to hold back. It’s important that they hear from her.”

Tuohy, repeating claims he’s made in court papers, said his client is innocent.

“What really happened is, the father took the boy outside, hosed off the boy outside by himself," he said. "That killed him. My client wasn’t even around. My client wasn’t even around when he did that. It’s not like she could have stopped him.”

Tuohy has said Valva controlled the boys he had fathered with estranged wife Justyna Zubko-Valva, who was in the midst of a contentious divorce and custody battle at the time of Thomas’ death, while Pollina looked after her daughters from previous relationships.

“Did Angela Pollina kill this boy? Or was she part of it? And I think people with common sense will look at the facts and say absolutely not. Were there mistakes made? Yes.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney, whose office is prosecuting the case, said the office does not comment on upcoming trials.

Because of their antagonistic defenses, the case could not be decided by a single jury, the judge ruled previously. The setup is rare, according to legal experts, but not unprecedented. 

“It certainly presents legal issues and logistical issues having two juries at one time,” said Fred Klein, a former veteran Nassau County prosecutor who has handled high-profile cases, including the prosecution of Amy Fisher, and now teaches at Hofstra University's law school. 

“The prosecution has to make sure they’re preparing their witnesses thoroughly," Klein said. "For the prosecution, that could be a nightmare if the witnesses say something in front of the jury that they’re not supposed to say.”

Defense attorney Steven Politi, who has experience representing a client accused of causing the death of a child, said the court faces a hurdle in finding jurors who haven’t made up their minds about the case, which has been covered extensively in the news media.

“I think the biggest challenge that the lawyers are going to have is finding a jury that doesn’t already have the DA office’s narrative in their mind,” Politi said. “There’s been so much press and so many negative facts put forth, are you going to be able to find a jury in Suffolk County? Obviously, the sympathy that every human being is going to have is through the roof.”

Politi represented Thomas Murphy, who was convicted for the 2018 drunken driving crash that killed 12-year-old Boy Scout Andrew McMorris. He unsuccessfully sought a change of venue for the trial, a request that lawyers for Valva and Pollina also could make once jury selection has started.

“There’s been so many extra judicial comments, things that have taken place outside the courtroom, and I worry for all defense attorneys in these high-profile cases,” Politi said. 

The prosecution’s evidence has been previewed, in part, during the February 2020 arraignments of both defendants and during a week of pretrial hearings in May 2021 to determine whether key evidence against Valva and Pollina — including audio, video surveillance and the clothing Thomas was wearing at the time of his death — would be admissible at the trial.

The defense argued that it should be thrown out on the grounds it was obtained unlawfully. The judge ruled in the prosecution’s favor.

The prosecution played a dramatic 911 call made by Valva on the morning of his son's death at the hearings, and called several witnesses to testify, including Suffolk County police officers and detectives, a housekeeper and a neighbor of the former couple. Valva's divorce attorney also testified. 

At the former couple's arraignment, lead prosecutor Kerri Ann Kelly, who is the chief of the Suffolk district attorney's Major Crime Bureau, described video evidence culled from the home's extensive indoor surveillance system showing Thomas and Anthony "banished to the garage once again" two days before his death. Thomas was "shaking in the freezing cold air and clearly exhibiting signs that he needs to use the bathroom in 19 degree weather," said Kelly, who said Thomas was "looking into the Nest camera with pleading eyes for someone to help him." 

Pollina, according to the prosecutor at their arraignment, "took a clip of the freezing children from the Nest video and sent it to Michael Valva, who was at work at the time." Pollina and Valva then had a text message conversation about whether Thomas was going to school the next morning. Valva replied, according to prosecutors: "I have zero clothing for him. [Expletive] the piece of [expletive] Thomas. He’s not going anywhere."

Other video footage, according to prosecutors, shows Valva "beating one of his children with a closed fist while screaming at him" and "Thomas begging to be let out of his room to use the bathroom."

In audio from the home from the morning Thomas died, prosecutors alleged Valva yelled about Thomas having an accident. "[Expletive] moron. I told him to stand up. Wash yourself. What does he do? He head dives into the [expletive] concrete."

A child was heard saying Thomas couldn't walk and "Angela explained that Thomas is hypothermic," Kelly said at the arraignment, adding that Valva told Pollina that Thomas had "face-planted twice in the garage."

Pollina then asked why he fell, according to prosecutors. "Cuz he was cold. Boo-[expletive]-hoo. Now he’s a bloody [expletive] mess," Valva replied, according to prosecutors who added that Pollina only expressed concern that Valva not yell so neighbors wouldn't hear. 

Thomas’ death resulted in a state review of Suffolk County’s Child Protective Services, which mandated the agency to create a corrective action plan and ordered that CPS caseworkers undergo better investigative training. CPS ultimately instituted reforms, including the retraining of child protective caseworkers, reduced caseloads, increased supervision of caseworkers, and requiring them to file case notes earlier and encouraging them to seek legal counsel if families deny access to children who may be in harm's way.

Following Thomas' death, a Newsday examination of thousands of pages of documents — including court transcripts from divorce and child custody proceedings in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, Child Protective Services reports from several caseworkers, and assessments from court-appointed lawyers and the East Moriches school district — showed that various entities designed to protect children ignored multiple warning signs that Thomas and his brothers were in danger.

Thomas' death occurred while Valva and his then-estranged wife were locked in contentious divorce and child custody proceedings. Zubko-Valva, a New York City correction officer, had married Valva in 2004, but by late 2015, the father of three boys had “abandoned” the family, moving out of their Valley Stream condo, Zubko-Valva alleged in court papers. Zubko-Valva, in the papers, also accused her husband of cheating with Pollina. Valva filed for divorce. Both lodged child abuse claims against one another, and Valva was ultimately granted custody of their three sons. 

Zubko-Valva, who had been a vocal presence at many of the initial criminal court proceedings and attended virtually during the coronavirus pandemic when in-person court was closed, later stopped attending proceedings. She declined to comment for this story through her civil attorney Jon Norinsberg, who has filed a $200 million federal lawsuit against Suffolk County and several county Child Protective Services employees for a series of alleged failures before his death. The civil lawsuit is in the discovery phase.

“She does not like to speak to the press regarding this case; She wants the case to speak for itself,” Norinsberg said.
Norinsberg said he did not expect his client or her eldest son Anthony to be called by prosecutors to testify against Valva and Pollina during the criminal trial.

“There’s overwhelming evidence of their guilt and the evidence is on camera, in addition to their false statements to medical personnel and their false statements to police,” Norinsberg said. “I think this case can be very convincingly tried without the need for testimony from my client or her children.”

It’s unclear whether Zubko-Valva will attend the trial.
“It may be too painful for her to watch,” Norinsberg said.

Thomas Valva was so hungry that he scrounged for food in trash cans at his elementary school. Before his 2020 death from hypothermia, the 8-year-old boy had missing hair, was bruised and walked with a limp. On surveillance video seized from his Center Moriches home, Thomas shivered visibly on the cement floor of his father’s garage in the dead of winter. There was no blanket to keep him warm.

These are some of the allegations that Suffolk County prosecutors have made and are expected to present to jurors during the upcoming murder trial of Thomas’ father, Michael Valva, an ex-NYPD officer, and the cop’s ex-fiancee, Angela Pollina. They both have pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection is expected to begin Wednesday in Riverhead to select two separate juries to consider the case, more than 2½ years after Thomas' death in a house on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches that prosecutors have labeled a "house of horrors."

Michael Valva and Angela Pollina at their arraignment in Suffolk County...

Michael Valva and Angela Pollina at their arraignment in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Feb. 6, 2020. Credit: James Carbone

Valva, 43, and Pollina, 45, pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and child endangerment in Thomas' death and the alleged abuse of his older brother Anthony, who was 10 years old at the time.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Jury selection in the murder trial of former NYPD Officer Michael Valva and his ex-fiancee in the death of Valva's son is scheduled to begin Wednesday.
  • Thomas Valva was 8 years old when he died of hypothermia on Jan. 17, 2020, after police responded to Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches.
  • Valva and ex-fiancee, Angela Pollina, are charged with second-degree murder and child endangerment in Thomas' death. They pleaded not guilty.
  • The judge presiding over the case ruled two separate juries will hear evidence in the trial, which he said is expected to take up to three months.

Thomas, who was on the autism spectrum, died on Jan. 17, 2020, after he allegedly was forced by Valva and Pollina to sleep in an unheated garage in 19 degree weather, prosecutors have said.

Thomas' body temperature was just 76.1 degrees before he died, prosecutors have said. His cause of death was ruled as hypothermia. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Suffolk Supreme Court Justice William Condon, who is presiding over the case, has said the trial will take an estimated three months, including about a month to select two juries, each consisting of 12 jurors and six alternates. The prosecution has estimated it will call at least 36 witnesses to testify.

The judge ruled earlier that both defendants will be on trial at the same time, but each defendant will have its own jury, despite a defense push for the defendants to be tried separately.

Undated photograph of Thomas Valva

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

Defense teams clash over allegations

In the walk-up to the trial, defense attorneys have cast blame on each other's clients.

Pollina's lawyer has alleged that it was Valva who sprayed the child with a cold water hose shortly before his death, and Valva's lawyers have said it was Pollina who forced Thomas to sleep in the garage.

Valva defense attorneys John LoTurco and Anthony LaPinta, in a written statement before jury selection, said their team is ready to go to trial.

“We appreciate the complex challenges of jury selection considering the tragic nature surrounding the case, and the extensive negative pretrial publicity," the statement said. "However, we are hopeful that we can select a fair and impartial jury in Suffolk County by having thoughtful, honest and meaningful conversations with prospective jurors."

The attorneys said they expect the jurors to examine the evidence carefully and the panel to find Valva didn't murder his son or put him at risk of death.

The attorneys didn't say whether Valva would take the stand.

LoTurco, in earlier comments, has called Thomas' death "a nightmarish accidental death and clearly not a murder."

On the night before Thomas died, LoTurco has said, the door separating the garage and access to the home was unlocked and there was a large electric space heater that was turned on inside the garage.

LoTurco also has cast Pollina as the "wicked, cruel stepmother" who "despised those autistic children" and "compelled them to be in the garage." 

Matthew Tuohy, the defense attorney for Pollina, said his client will take the stand.

“She’s 100% going to testify, 100%,” Tuohy told Newsday in a recent interview. “She’s got nothing to hide, nothing to hold back. It’s important that they hear from her.”

Tuohy, repeating claims he’s made in court papers, said his client is innocent.

“What really happened is, the father took the boy outside, hosed off the boy outside by himself," he said. "That killed him. My client wasn’t even around. My client wasn’t even around when he did that. It’s not like she could have stopped him.”

Justyna Zubko-Valva and her son, Thomas Valva.

Justyna Zubko-Valva and her son, Thomas Valva. Credit: Justyna Zubko-Valva

Tuohy has said Valva controlled the boys he had fathered with estranged wife Justyna Zubko-Valva, who was in the midst of a contentious divorce and custody battle at the time of Thomas’ death, while Pollina looked after her daughters from previous relationships.

“Did Angela Pollina kill this boy? Or was she part of it? And I think people with common sense will look at the facts and say absolutely not. Were there mistakes made? Yes.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney, whose office is prosecuting the case, said the office does not comment on upcoming trials.

Two separate juries will hear the case

Because of their antagonistic defenses, the case could not be decided by a single jury, the judge ruled previously. The setup is rare, according to legal experts, but not unprecedented. 

“It certainly presents legal issues and logistical issues having two juries at one time,” said Fred Klein, a former veteran Nassau County prosecutor who has handled high-profile cases, including the prosecution of Amy Fisher, and now teaches at Hofstra University's law school. 

“The prosecution has to make sure they’re preparing their witnesses thoroughly," Klein said. "For the prosecution, that could be a nightmare if the witnesses say something in front of the jury that they’re not supposed to say.”

Defense attorney Steven Politi, who has experience representing a client accused of causing the death of a child, said the court faces a hurdle in finding jurors who haven’t made up their minds about the case, which has been covered extensively in the news media.

“I think the biggest challenge that the lawyers are going to have is finding a jury that doesn’t already have the DA office’s narrative in their mind,” Politi said. “There’s been so much press and so many negative facts put forth, are you going to be able to find a jury in Suffolk County? Obviously, the sympathy that every human being is going to have is through the roof.”

Politi represented Thomas Murphy, who was convicted for the 2018 drunken driving crash that killed 12-year-old Boy Scout Andrew McMorris. He unsuccessfully sought a change of venue for the trial, a request that lawyers for Valva and Pollina also could make once jury selection has started.

“There’s been so many extra judicial comments, things that have taken place outside the courtroom, and I worry for all defense attorneys in these high-profile cases,” Politi said. 

The prosecution's case

The prosecution’s evidence has been previewed, in part, during the February 2020 arraignments of both defendants and during a week of pretrial hearings in May 2021 to determine whether key evidence against Valva and Pollina — including audio, video surveillance and the clothing Thomas was wearing at the time of his death — would be admissible at the trial.

The defense argued that it should be thrown out on the grounds it was obtained unlawfully. The judge ruled in the prosecution’s favor.

Michael Valva appears in Justice Williams Condon's courtroom at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead in March 2020. Credit: James Carbone

The prosecution played a dramatic 911 call made by Valva on the morning of his son's death at the hearings, and called several witnesses to testify, including Suffolk County police officers and detectives, a housekeeper and a neighbor of the former couple. Valva's divorce attorney also testified. 

At the former couple's arraignment, lead prosecutor Kerri Ann Kelly, who is the chief of the Suffolk district attorney's Major Crime Bureau, described video evidence culled from the home's extensive indoor surveillance system showing Thomas and Anthony "banished to the garage once again" two days before his death. Thomas was "shaking in the freezing cold air and clearly exhibiting signs that he needs to use the bathroom in 19 degree weather," said Kelly, who said Thomas was "looking into the Nest camera with pleading eyes for someone to help him." 

Pollina, according to the prosecutor at their arraignment, "took a clip of the freezing children from the Nest video and sent it to Michael Valva, who was at work at the time." Pollina and Valva then had a text message conversation about whether Thomas was going to school the next morning. Valva replied, according to prosecutors: "I have zero clothing for him. [Expletive] the piece of [expletive] Thomas. He’s not going anywhere."

Other video footage, according to prosecutors, shows Valva "beating one of his children with a closed fist while screaming at him" and "Thomas begging to be let out of his room to use the bathroom."

In audio from the home from the morning Thomas died, prosecutors alleged Valva yelled about Thomas having an accident. "[Expletive] moron. I told him to stand up. Wash yourself. What does he do? He head dives into the [expletive] concrete."

A child was heard saying Thomas couldn't walk and "Angela explained that Thomas is hypothermic," Kelly said at the arraignment, adding that Valva told Pollina that Thomas had "face-planted twice in the garage."

Angela Pollina attends a hearing in her case in Suffolk...

Angela Pollina attends a hearing in her case in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead in May. Credit: John Roca

Pollina then asked why he fell, according to prosecutors. "Cuz he was cold. Boo-[expletive]-hoo. Now he’s a bloody [expletive] mess," Valva replied, according to prosecutors who added that Pollina only expressed concern that Valva not yell so neighbors wouldn't hear. 

The aftermath

Thomas’ death resulted in a state review of Suffolk County’s Child Protective Services, which mandated the agency to create a corrective action plan and ordered that CPS caseworkers undergo better investigative training. CPS ultimately instituted reforms, including the retraining of child protective caseworkers, reduced caseloads, increased supervision of caseworkers, and requiring them to file case notes earlier and encouraging them to seek legal counsel if families deny access to children who may be in harm's way.

Following Thomas' death, a Newsday examination of thousands of pages of documents — including court transcripts from divorce and child custody proceedings in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, Child Protective Services reports from several caseworkers, and assessments from court-appointed lawyers and the East Moriches school district — showed that various entities designed to protect children ignored multiple warning signs that Thomas and his brothers were in danger.

Teddy bears and flowers collect in front of Thomas Valva's...

Teddy bears and flowers collect in front of Thomas Valva's home on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches in Februrary 2020. Credit: James Carbone

Thomas' death occurred while Valva and his then-estranged wife were locked in contentious divorce and child custody proceedings. Zubko-Valva, a New York City correction officer, had married Valva in 2004, but by late 2015, the father of three boys had “abandoned” the family, moving out of their Valley Stream condo, Zubko-Valva alleged in court papers. Zubko-Valva, in the papers, also accused her husband of cheating with Pollina. Valva filed for divorce. Both lodged child abuse claims against one another, and Valva was ultimately granted custody of their three sons. 

Zubko-Valva, who had been a vocal presence at many of the initial criminal court proceedings and attended virtually during the coronavirus pandemic when in-person court was closed, later stopped attending proceedings. She declined to comment for this story through her civil attorney Jon Norinsberg, who has filed a $200 million federal lawsuit against Suffolk County and several county Child Protective Services employees for a series of alleged failures before his death. The civil lawsuit is in the discovery phase.

“She does not like to speak to the press regarding this case; She wants the case to speak for itself,” Norinsberg said.
Norinsberg said he did not expect his client or her eldest son Anthony to be called by prosecutors to testify against Valva and Pollina during the criminal trial.

“There’s overwhelming evidence of their guilt and the evidence is on camera, in addition to their false statements to medical personnel and their false statements to police,” Norinsberg said. “I think this case can be very convincingly tried without the need for testimony from my client or her children.”

It’s unclear whether Zubko-Valva will attend the trial.
“It may be too painful for her to watch,” Norinsberg said.

Thomas Valva Case Timeline

  • 2004: NYPD Officer Michael Valva weds Justyna Zubko-Valva, a Polish national who came to the United States on a student visa in 2002. 
  • 2009: Zubko-Valva gives birth to the couple’s first child, Anthony. 
  • Sept. 14, 2011: Thomas Valva is born. He and his brother Anthony would later be diagnosed with autism. A third son, Andrew, was born in May 2013. 
  • Late 2014: Valva moves out of the family’s Valley Stream condominium. Zubko-Valva accuses him in court papers of abandoning her and the children. She claims Valva is having an affair with Angela Pollina, a hospital administrator and the mother of three daughters. Valva and Zubko-Valva begin divorce proceedings in 2015. 
  • July 2016: Zubko-Valva tells Child Protective Services that Valva abuses the boys, according to court transcripts. She tells Nassau County Judge Francis Ricigliano during a hearing that her sons come home hungry and thirsty after visits with their father. She claims Valva didn't get medical attention for Andrew when the boy had a 102-degree fever. 
  • September 2018: Nassau County Judge Hope Zimmerman awards temporary custody of the boys to Valva. The judge says Zubko-Valva can have unsupervised visits with her children every other weekend. 
  • Fall 2017: Staff at East Moriches Elementary School, where Anthony and Thomas were enrolled, express concerns about abuse, with one teacher writing in a memo that the boys are not getting enough to eat, court papers show. Anthony loses 11 pounds in nine months, she writes, while Thomas gains just one pound in the preceding 20 months. 
  • January 2018: Thomas tells a social worker, according to Child Protective Services, that his mother left a mark under his eye. Andrew also says his mother hurts him and he is afraid of her. Thomas denies the allegation that his father punishes the kids by putting them out in the cold.
  • February 2018: CPS says Zubko-Valva is “indicated” for inadequate guardianship for the boys, citing her deteriorating mental state. A CPS report produces evidence that Valva’s actions place the six kids — his boys and Pollina’s three daughters — at risk of physical, mental and emotional harm. 
  • April 2018: Valva completes a parenting skills program. School psychologist Renee Emin writes a note that says Valva and Pollina do not understand the depth of Thomas' and Anthony's disabilities. She also notes the boys are afraid to go to the nurse's office because Valva and Pollina tell them not to go there.  
  • Fall 2018: School psychologist Emin tells CPS that Valva doesn't understand the boys’ needs. The school also expresses concerns about Anthony’s weight loss and says the boys pick up food from the floor and constantly ask for snacks.
  • February 2018: A report to CPS states that Anthony has come to school for at least a week with urine-soaked clothes and backpack, and that Valva and Pollina are not addressing the issue. 
  • March 2019: Report to CPS says Valva and Pollina told Anthony to act out in school and on the bus so that he will be transferred to another school. The anonymous report said the boys are losing weight and the father punishes Anthony by putting him in the garage for long periods of time.  
  • May 2019: Report to CPS says Valva threw a book bag at Thomas, leaving the boy with a bruise and bump on his forehead. A few days later, CPS says Anthony threw the bag and no safety risks were found.
  • July 2019: During divorce proceedings before Nassau County Judge Joseph Lorintz, Zubko-Valva says she has not seen her children in 18 months and the boys are being abused in the home of her estranged husband. She said Anthony sleeps in the garage and is not being fed.
  • Jan. 17, 2020: Suffolk police officers respond to the Valva home on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches at 9:40 a.m. after receiving a 911 call reporting that Thomas has fallen in the driveway. Thomas is transported to Long Island Community Hospital, where he is pronounced dead. An investigation by Suffolk police homicide detectives revealed that Thomas and Anthony had been forced to sleep without blankets, mattresses or pillows in the garage on the night of Jan. 16, when the temperature outside had dipped to 19 degrees. The Suffolk County medical examiner determines Thomas' cause of death to be hypothermia.
  • Jan. 24, 2020: Valva and Pollina are arrested by Suffolk police. 
  • Feb. 6, 2020: An indictment charges Valva and Pollina each with second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Both plead not guilty at their arraignment. If convicted, they face up to 25 years to life in prison. Valva tells a Suffolk Family Court judge that he has been fired by the NYPD. Police said he was suspended without pay.
  • June 2020: Zubko-Valva files a $200 million federal lawsuit claiming Long Island officials charged with protecting Thomas ignored years of warnings of sexual abuse, beatings, starvation and neglect that resulted in the death of the 8-year-old. The 99-page lawsuit said a Nassau judge, Suffolk Child Protective Services employees, East Moriches school officials and others were complicit in the boy's death.
  • October 2020: Valva resigns from the NYPD. 
  • March 11, 2021: Prosecutors say in court papers that Thomas Valva was missing hair, walked with a limp and had a medical condition consistent with prolonged stress before his death. 
  • May 19, 2021: During a hearing in Riverhead, defense attorneys for Valva and Pollina say the two blame each other for Thomas’ hypothermia death. Valva’s attorney called Pollina a “wicked, cruel stepmother” after the hearing. Pollina’s attorney said Valva was solely responsible for the boy’s death and said his client was controlled and intimidated by him.
  • Aug. 5, 2021: Suffolk County Judge William Condon rules that key surveillance and other evidence be admitted at the murder trials of Valva and Pollina, who claimed Suffolk investigators had seized the material illegally. Condon indicated that he would allow two juries, one of each defendant. 
  • June 2022: A federal judge rules that part of the $200 million lawsuit filed by Zubko-Valva can proceed, including claims against Suffolk County and several county Child Protective Services employees for a series of alleged failures before Thomas' death. 
  • June 24, 2022: Condon said jury selection in the Valva-Pollina murder trial, delayed repeatedly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will begin on Sept. 7. “That date is in stone,” Condon told prosecutors and defense attorneys.
  • Sept. 7: Jury selection is scheduled to begin in the Valva-Pollina murder case.

Timeline material was compiled by Newsday reporter Michael O'Keeffe from court records and live Newsday courtroom coverage.