Thomas Valva died on Jan. 17, 2020, after his father, then-NYPD Officer Michael Valva, and the father’s fiancee, Angela Pollina, forced him and his brother to spend the night in their unheated Center Moriches garage.

A special grand jury report detailing Suffolk County Child Protective Services' handling of child abuse complaints regarding the couple convicted of killing 8-year-old Thomas Valva is set to be released to the public, the District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney is expected to share the grand jury’s findings and recommendations aimed at improving Child Protective Services, a division of the Department of Social Services, at a media briefing in Hauppauge at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Tierney announced plans to impanel the grand jury following the depraved indifference murder convictions of Valva’s father, Michael, and his then-fiancee, Angela Pollina, though details about the grand jury and its findings have remained confidential. In Wednesday's announcement, the district attorney's office said the grand jury met for six months.

The special grand jury, first promised in 2020 by former Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini, was initially said to be organized to investigate the circumstances surrounding Thomas’ death and make recommendations on reforming Child Protective Services, the judiciary and law enforcement. The findings could have a significant impact on the outcome of a $200 million lawsuit filed by Justyna Zubko-Valva, the mother of the boys, who long has maintained that officials ignored years of warnings of beatings, starvation and neglect by her former husband and Pollina.

   WHAT TO KNOW

  • The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office will release a special grand jury report on the investigation into Child Protective Services’ handling of abuse complaints regarding the couple convicted of killing 8-year-old Thomas Valva in 2020.
  • Thomas' father, Michael, and his then-fiancee, Angela Pollina, were separately convicted of second-degree depraved indifference murder for his death. The grand jury was impaneled following those convictions and met for six months.
  • While the contents of the report will not be released until Thursday, the district attorney's office said it contains factual findings and recommendations to improve the Child Protective Services system to better keep children safe.

Court records show Zubko-Valva rejected a $3 million offer by the county to settle the lawsuit last year, but the case has stalled after a judge granted her previous attorney’s request to withdraw from the case following disputes over how to proceed with the case. Zubko-Valva retained new counsel in March.

Thomas died on Jan. 17, 2020, after his father, a former NYPD officer, and Pollina compelled the boys to spend the night in their unheated garage in Center Moriches despite outdoor temperatures that dipped as low as 19 degrees. He died of hypothermia the following morning.

After Thomas’ death, it was revealed that Suffolk CPS caseworkers had received dozens of allegations of severe abuse of Thomas and Anthony — including that they were forced to sleep in the garage in cold weather — and repeatedly had questioned Valva and Pollina, and visited their home.

Yet, they kept the boys with Valva and Pollina, even after the children came to school bruised, bloodied, dirty, hungry and soaked in urine. Caseworkers accepted some of the couple’s explanations for the children’s condition, despite school employees pleading with them to take action, CPS records and court testimony show.

A Newsday investigation published last May revealed that more than three years after the boy’s death, some investigations into the county's child-welfare system that were promised had not been completed or never started. The state has not released a report that is critical of Suffolk Child Protective Services.

A Suffolk legislative task force looking into the Valva case has been largely inactive since 2021. A planned review by the state court system on how judges handled custody and visitation issues was never done, Newsday previously reported.

The Newsday investigation also found that three Suffolk County Child Protective Services employees who played key roles in the agency’s investigations into abuse allegations against Valva and Pollina were promoted after the boy’s death.

Although the state Office of Children and Family Services and Suffolk won’t release the results of the state investigation, a Suffolk “program improvement plan” created in response to the state report said CPS:

  • Was not always effectively documenting the history of its cases
  • Did not give enough emphasis to child-abuse hotline reports in its decision-making
  • Did not coordinate enough with law enforcement
  • Did not give enough priority to abuse reports from school employees
  • The findings referred to overall Suffolk CPS performance, not just in the Valva case, state agency officials told Newsday

Former County Executive Steve Bellone also announced in December that the county has failed to keep Child Protective Services caseload levels below its reform goal of 12 cases or fewer per caseworker under the 2020 CPS Transformation Act passed six months after Thomas' killing due to a shortage of caseworkers.

A Suffolk jury convicted Pollina of second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child on March 10, 2023. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison the following month. Another jury, in a separate trial, convicted Valva of the same charges on Nov. 4, 2022. He is also serving 25 years to life in an upstate prison.

With Nicole Fuller

Stomach illness hits high school … Seat belt bill … FeedMe: Korean BBQ Credit: Newsday

Storm brings whipping winds, flooding ... LI children undercounted ... LI housing developers forum ... Winter sports photo shoot

Stomach illness hits high school … Seat belt bill … FeedMe: Korean BBQ Credit: Newsday

Storm brings whipping winds, flooding ... LI children undercounted ... LI housing developers forum ... Winter sports photo shoot

Latest videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME