Teddy bears and flowers adorn the front of Thomas Valva's home...

Teddy bears and flowers adorn the front of Thomas Valva's home at 11 Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches on Feb. 21, 2020. Credit: James Carbone

The Center Moriches home where 8-year-old Thomas Valva died of hypothermia in 2020 after he and his brother were forced to sleep in the unheated garage during frigid temperatures and which prosecutors described as a "house of horrors" failed to sell at a foreclosure auction outside Brookhaven Town Hall Wednesday.

Bidding on the 11 Bittersweet Lane property began at 10 a.m. at Brookhaven Town Hall, but there were no public bidders.

An opening bid of more than $634,200 was made by M&T Bank, which will retain possession after no public bids were made. Real estate attorney and court-appointed auction referee Dan Panico said the bank offered that starting point in order to recover what was owed on the house plus expenses.

Panico, who also represents the community as a Brookhaven Town councilman, said the tragedy that occurred in the house likely impacted the auction. He said he was not surprised by the result.

"[It] is understandable because of the nature of what occurred in this house," Panico said, calling the home "stigmatized."

M&T Bank will now determine the next steps for selling the home, he said.

Panico, who is also the Republican candidate for town supervisor, said some in the community have suggested razing the house and turning it into a memorial site or park. He said the lot size and municipal investment required make that not feasible. 

Edith Beauzile, who moved into the house next door to the former Valva house last month, said she couldn't see wanting to live in the home no matter the cost.

"I wasn’t here when that happened and I feel terrible," she said. "Every time I look at the yard I’m thinking about that little kid that died there."

The foreclosure action began in August 2020, six months after Michael Valva and Angela Pollina were indicted in the death of Thomas and the abuse of Thomas and his older brother, Anthony, at their hands. The couple had purchased the four-bedroom house just south of Sunrise Highway for $510,785 in July 2017, court records show.

A judgment of foreclosure was entered with the couple still incarcerated in September 2022, two months before Valva would be convicted of second-degree murder in Thomas' death. Pollina, Valva’s former fiancee, was convicted in March of this year, also of second-degree murder in Thomas' death. They are each serving 25-years-to-life sentences in state prisons.

The real estate website Zillow estimates the current value of the house, which was built on 0.71 acres in 2005, at $839,400. A five-bedroom house on the same street sold in May for $760,000, real estate records show. 

Records also show a $400,000 short sale of the property was pending in January 2022, but it never sold.

An auction was later scheduled for the same day Pollina was sentenced in April, but the home was abruptly taken off the block and again offered as a $400,000 short sale.

Thomas died of hypothermia on Jan. 17, 2020, after Pollina and Valva, then an NYPD cop, forced Thomas and his brother Anthony, who was 10 at the time, to spend the night in the unheated garage when it was 19 degrees outside.

There were no mattresses, no beds, no pillows nor blankets in the garage where Thomas slept for the last time.

Former Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said following the couple’s arraignment in February 2022 that it was “clearly a house of horrors.”

Valva and Pollina were found guilty in separate trials of second-degree murder as well as four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the abuse of Thomas and Anthony, for forcing the boys to sleep in a freezing garage and starving and beating them. Both boys were on the autism spectrum, officials said.

In March, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said surveillance video from inside the house, some of which Pollina deleted, evidence showed, was “critical” to prosecutors’ success in convicting both Pollina and Valva.

"Without that Nest camera, nobody would have believed what went on in that house," Tierney said.

With James Carbone

The Center Moriches home where 8-year-old Thomas Valva died of hypothermia in 2020 after he and his brother were forced to sleep in the unheated garage during frigid temperatures and which prosecutors described as a "house of horrors" failed to sell at a foreclosure auction outside Brookhaven Town Hall Wednesday.

Bidding on the 11 Bittersweet Lane property began at 10 a.m. at Brookhaven Town Hall, but there were no public bidders.

An opening bid of more than $634,200 was made by M&T Bank, which will retain possession after no public bids were made. Real estate attorney and court-appointed auction referee Dan Panico said the bank offered that starting point in order to recover what was owed on the house plus expenses.

Panico, who also represents the community as a Brookhaven Town councilman, said the tragedy that occurred in the house likely impacted the auction. He said he was not surprised by the result.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The Center Moriches home where 8-year-old Thomas Valva died of hypothermia in 2020 after he and his brother were forced to sleep in the unheated garage during frigid temperatures failed to sell at a foreclosure auction Wednesday.
  • Bidding on the 11 Bittersweet Lane property began at 10 a.m. at Brookhaven Town Hall but there were no public bidders. An opening bid of more than $634,200 was made by M&T Bank, which will retain possession after no public bids were made.
  • M&T Bank will determine the next steps for selling the home.

"[It] is understandable because of the nature of what occurred in this house," Panico said, calling the home "stigmatized."

M&T Bank will now determine the next steps for selling the home, he said.

Panico, who is also the Republican candidate for town supervisor, said some in the community have suggested razing the house and turning it into a memorial site or park. He said the lot size and municipal investment required make that not feasible. 

Edith Beauzile, who moved into the house next door to the former Valva house last month, said she couldn't see wanting to live in the home no matter the cost.

"I wasn’t here when that happened and I feel terrible," she said. "Every time I look at the yard I’m thinking about that little kid that died there."

The foreclosure action began in August 2020, six months after Michael Valva and Angela Pollina were indicted in the death of Thomas and the abuse of Thomas and his older brother, Anthony, at their hands. The couple had purchased the four-bedroom house just south of Sunrise Highway for $510,785 in July 2017, court records show.

A judgment of foreclosure was entered with the couple still incarcerated in September 2022, two months before Valva would be convicted of second-degree murder in Thomas' death. Pollina, Valva’s former fiancee, was convicted in March of this year, also of second-degree murder in Thomas' death. They are each serving 25-years-to-life sentences in state prisons.

The real estate website Zillow estimates the current value of the house, which was built on 0.71 acres in 2005, at $839,400. A five-bedroom house on the same street sold in May for $760,000, real estate records show. 

Records also show a $400,000 short sale of the property was pending in January 2022, but it never sold.

An auction was later scheduled for the same day Pollina was sentenced in April, but the home was abruptly taken off the block and again offered as a $400,000 short sale.

Thomas died of hypothermia on Jan. 17, 2020, after Pollina and Valva, then an NYPD cop, forced Thomas and his brother Anthony, who was 10 at the time, to spend the night in the unheated garage when it was 19 degrees outside.

There were no mattresses, no beds, no pillows nor blankets in the garage where Thomas slept for the last time.

A picture of Thomas Valva is on display at St....

A picture of Thomas Valva is on display at St. John the Evangelist R.C. Church in Center Moricnes on Jan. 27, 2020. Credit: copy by James Carbone

Former Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said following the couple’s arraignment in February 2022 that it was “clearly a house of horrors.”

Valva and Pollina were found guilty in separate trials of second-degree murder as well as four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the abuse of Thomas and Anthony, for forcing the boys to sleep in a freezing garage and starving and beating them. Both boys were on the autism spectrum, officials said.

In March, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said surveillance video from inside the house, some of which Pollina deleted, evidence showed, was “critical” to prosecutors’ success in convicting both Pollina and Valva.

"Without that Nest camera, nobody would have believed what went on in that house," Tierney said.

With James Carbone

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