Michael Valva, who is charged with killing his 8-year-old son Thomas, argued with his estranged wife during a Thursday morning appearance in Nassau County matrimonial court. Justyna Zubko-Valva, Thomas' mother, met with the media after the court appearance. Credit: Howard Schnapp; Photo Credit: Newsday / Shelby Knowles; James Carbone, Howard Simmons, Justine Zubko-Valva

The NYPD officer charged with killing his 8-year-old son argued in matrimonial court with his estranged wife during a Thursday appearance in which he shook his head and objected when she declared that he had murdered the boy.

“I object to that,” said Michael Valva, who has been jailed since his arrest last month for allegedly killing his son.  “She should not be saying such things,” he said of the accusations of his estranged wife, Justyna Zubko-Valva, who said in court that he had murdered Thomas Valva, one of their three sons, after longtime abuse.

Valva, who was in court in handcuffs and shackles, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in the boy's Jan. 17 death. He represented himself during Thursday's divorce proceeding. His divorce lawyer quit the case after Valva was charged.

Valva’s comments were his most extensive public statements since his arrest. Authorities have said Valva and his fiancée, Angela Pollina, 42 — who is also charged with murder — forced Thomas, who was on the autism spectrum, to sleep in the unheated garage of the family's Center Moriches home in freezing weather and starved the boy as punishment. The boy died of hypothermia.

Michael Valva appears outside matrimonial court in Mineola on Thursday.

Michael Valva appears outside matrimonial court in Mineola on Thursday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Zubko-Valva, 36, of Valley Stream, who is also representing herself in the divorce case, sparred with Valva over finances as well. She accused him of hiding funds from her and failing to pay the mortgage on their marital residence — now in foreclosure — despite a previous court order. 

And Valva countered with accusations that Zubko-Valva refused to see or even speak to their sons — Thomas, Anthony, 10, and Andrew, 6 — after he was granted temporary custody in 2017 amid their divorce and custody battle. Valva filed for divorce in December 2015.

Zubko-Valva was awarded custody of Thomas' two brothers after Valva was charged with murder.

“Ms. Zubko chose not to see the children,” Valva said, not using his surname, even though his estranged wife does use it in hyphenated form. "She declined everything.”

At another point while discussing their finances, Zubko-Valva said of her estranged husband: “There is no need for plaintiff to lie to the court.”

Valva countered that Zubko-Valva makes $65,000 annually as a New York City correction officer at Rikers Island. Valva, a transit officer, is suspended without pay from the NYPD. 

“Ms. Zubko refuses to provide any further finances,” said Valva, adding: “She also gets countless hours of overtime.”

Jeffrey A. Goodstein, supervising judge of the Nassau County Matrimonial Center, issued several orders, including approving the request of Donna McCabe, who was a court-appointed attorney for the Valva boys since 2016, to be removed from the case. He ordered Thomas McNally, the same attorney appointed to represent the children in Suffolk Family Court, to represent them in their parents' divorce.

Goodstein also ordered Valva to give $11,000 from his 401(k) to Zubko-Valva for child support. Valva did not object. The judge also said he would consider appointing an attorney for Valva in the divorce case regarding custody issues only, pending a financial analysis. Zubko-Valva has refused to have an attorney.

Goodstein, referencing the Jan. 27 family court order granting temporary custody of Anthony and Andrew to their mother, told Valva: "You have no access to them whatsoever, you understand that?" 

Valva replied: "I understand that." 

Goodstein permitted Zubko-Valva to speak at length during the proceeding. She harshly criticized McCabe’s handling of the case, repeating accusations she has long made that McCabe was more interested in helping Valva than looking out for the children, and claimed McCabe is the sister of former FBI Director Andrew McCabe, which the attorney said was false.

McCabe told the judge “I do not wish to address” the mother’s allegations, but added: “I have no relation to Andrew McCabe.”

Zubko-Valva also criticized the court reporter, tasked with taking notes and making a transcript of the hearing, after the veteran court reporter asked a fast-talking Zubko-Valva several times to repeat herself in a courtroom with poor acoustics. 

"The court reporter's pretending she can't hear me," said Zubko-Valva, who questioned if the transcript would be accurate and asked the judge for a new court reporter. The judge declined the request. 

Outside court, Zubko-Valva said she was “very grateful” that McCabe was off the case.

“Obviously it’s not easy to be in the same courtroom with the murderer of my child," she said, regarding Valva. "But I have to be here for Tommy and I have to fight for justice for Tommy and my other two children.”

The parents are scheduled to be back in court on June 30.

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