Michael Valva is charged with second-degree murder and child endangerment in...

Michael Valva is charged with second-degree murder and child endangerment in the death of his 8-year-old son, Thomas, and alleged abuse of his son, Anthony. Credit: James Carbone

Michael Valva's former housekeeper testified Friday that the ex-NYPD officer, who is on trial for allegedly killing his 8-year-old son Thomas, was "focused" and "frantic" as he performed CPR on the boy in the basement of his Center Moriches home while on the phone with 911 -- a point that Valva's attorneys argue is key to his defense. 

"Michael was giving chest compressions to Thomas on the sofa," said Tyrene Rodriguez, who was at Valva's home on Jan. 17, 2020 -- the day Thomas died -- and testified as a defense witness in a Riverhead courtroom Friday.

Prosecutors contend Valva waited about 50 minutes to call 911 at 9:41 a.m., after Valva was heard at 8:50 a.m. on surveillance video previously played for the jury screaming at Thomas to "wake up" and repeatedly asking "are you alive?" 

And on cross-examination, Rodriguez conceded that she thought Thomas, who was “blue” and “looked lifeless,” was already dead while Valva performed CPR on the boy.

Valva has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in Thomas death and the alleged abuse of his eldest son Anthony, then 10. Prosecutors have alleged Valva, 43, and his then-fiancee Angela Pollina, 45, caused Thomas’ hypothermia death by forcing the boy to sleep in an unheated garage in freezing temperatures. Pollina has also pleaded not guilty and will go on trial later.

Valva’s defense attorneys have argued that it was Pollina who hated Thomas and Anthony because they were on the autism spectrum and had incontinence issues and she demanded the boys sleep in the garage. Valva only agreed to it, the defense has said, because he was struggling financially amid his contentious divorce from the boys’ mother and would have nowhere to live if he and Pollina broke up. But he never thought Thomas would die from sleeping in the garage, the defense has said.

Rodriguez, formerly of Mastic but now a resident of Deerfield, Ohio, testified that when she arrived to the home, which she described as "always immaculately beautiful inside” and decorated in an "'Italiany' motif,” that morning she spoke to Pollina in the kitchen. She heard crying and Pollina told her it was Thomas, who had fallen while running for the bus.

Rodriguez was cleaning the main floor bathroom sink, with music playing in her ear buds, when she heard an automated voice from the home’s surveillance system indicating the garage door opened, she testified.

“So I looked over my shoulder at that moment and I saw Michael, Angela and Thomas walking in the direction of the kitchen,” said Rodriguez, noting that she only saw Thomas legs, which were in pants. “Thomas was crying. I heard whimpering,” she said.

Some 10 to 15 minutes later, Rodriguez said, a “frazzled” and “hysterical” Pollina approached her and said “Thomas isn’t breathing. Michael has 911 on the phone.”

They ran to the basement where Valva, who had a 911 operator on speakerphone, was doing CPR, she said.

Valva defense attorney John LoTurco then played the 911 call. Both Rodriguez and Valva, sitting at the defense table, cried while the call played for the jury.

Rodriguez, who has received CPR training, said she thought it was “strange” that Valva, who also had CPR training as a police officer, initially had Thomas on the sofa because a patient should be on a hard, flat surface, Rodriguez said.

She knelt down near Thomas’ head and leaned it back to open his airway, she said, and noted that he felt “cold, clammy and wet.”

On cross-examination, prosecutor Laura Newcombe accused Rodriguez of being "a little unsure of everything that day" and played audio from the surveillance video inside the Valva house as she sought to demonstrate that Rodriguez was mistaken when she testified that she heard Thomas crying after arriving to the house at about 8:58 a.m.

Newcombe also questioned Rodriguez’s contention that a crying Thomas walked from the garage with Valva and Pollina, pointing to her earlier police statement that Valva was “cradling” the boy.

"Today was a good day for the defense because it demonstrates that Michael Valva was performing life-saving measures on Thomas," LoTurco said after court Friday. "The cleaning lady provided corroboration of that fact. It goes towards our defense that Michael was not depraved in that he actually tried to save his son. Clearly, Michael was a terrible parent. He had his significant deficiencies. But in the end, he still loved Thomas and tried to save him in the end.”

Michael Valva's former housekeeper testified Friday that the ex-NYPD officer, who is on trial for allegedly killing his 8-year-old son Thomas, was "focused" and "frantic" as he performed CPR on the boy in the basement of his Center Moriches home while on the phone with 911 -- a point that Valva's attorneys argue is key to his defense. 

"Michael was giving chest compressions to Thomas on the sofa," said Tyrene Rodriguez, who was at Valva's home on Jan. 17, 2020 -- the day Thomas died -- and testified as a defense witness in a Riverhead courtroom Friday.

Prosecutors contend Valva waited about 50 minutes to call 911 at 9:41 a.m., after Valva was heard at 8:50 a.m. on surveillance video previously played for the jury screaming at Thomas to "wake up" and repeatedly asking "are you alive?" 

And on cross-examination, Rodriguez conceded that she thought Thomas, who was “blue” and “looked lifeless,” was already dead while Valva performed CPR on the boy.

Valva has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in Thomas death and the alleged abuse of his eldest son Anthony, then 10. Prosecutors have alleged Valva, 43, and his then-fiancee Angela Pollina, 45, caused Thomas’ hypothermia death by forcing the boy to sleep in an unheated garage in freezing temperatures. Pollina has also pleaded not guilty and will go on trial later.

Valva’s defense attorneys have argued that it was Pollina who hated Thomas and Anthony because they were on the autism spectrum and had incontinence issues and she demanded the boys sleep in the garage. Valva only agreed to it, the defense has said, because he was struggling financially amid his contentious divorce from the boys’ mother and would have nowhere to live if he and Pollina broke up. But he never thought Thomas would die from sleeping in the garage, the defense has said.

Tyrene Rodriguez, the former housekeeper for the Valva family, testified...

Tyrene Rodriguez, the former housekeeper for the Valva family, testified Friday at Michael Valva's trial. Credit: John Roca

Rodriguez, formerly of Mastic but now a resident of Deerfield, Ohio, testified that when she arrived to the home, which she described as "always immaculately beautiful inside” and decorated in an "'Italiany' motif,” that morning she spoke to Pollina in the kitchen. She heard crying and Pollina told her it was Thomas, who had fallen while running for the bus.

Rodriguez was cleaning the main floor bathroom sink, with music playing in her ear buds, when she heard an automated voice from the home’s surveillance system indicating the garage door opened, she testified.

“So I looked over my shoulder at that moment and I saw Michael, Angela and Thomas walking in the direction of the kitchen,” said Rodriguez, noting that she only saw Thomas legs, which were in pants. “Thomas was crying. I heard whimpering,” she said.

Some 10 to 15 minutes later, Rodriguez said, a “frazzled” and “hysterical” Pollina approached her and said “Thomas isn’t breathing. Michael has 911 on the phone.”

They ran to the basement where Valva, who had a 911 operator on speakerphone, was doing CPR, she said.

Valva defense attorney John LoTurco then played the 911 call. Both Rodriguez and Valva, sitting at the defense table, cried while the call played for the jury.

Rodriguez, who has received CPR training, said she thought it was “strange” that Valva, who also had CPR training as a police officer, initially had Thomas on the sofa because a patient should be on a hard, flat surface, Rodriguez said.

She knelt down near Thomas’ head and leaned it back to open his airway, she said, and noted that he felt “cold, clammy and wet.”

an undated photograph of Thomas Valva.

an undated photograph of Thomas Valva. Credit: Courtesy Justyna Zubko-Valva

On cross-examination, prosecutor Laura Newcombe accused Rodriguez of being "a little unsure of everything that day" and played audio from the surveillance video inside the Valva house as she sought to demonstrate that Rodriguez was mistaken when she testified that she heard Thomas crying after arriving to the house at about 8:58 a.m.

Newcombe also questioned Rodriguez’s contention that a crying Thomas walked from the garage with Valva and Pollina, pointing to her earlier police statement that Valva was “cradling” the boy.

"Today was a good day for the defense because it demonstrates that Michael Valva was performing life-saving measures on Thomas," LoTurco said after court Friday. "The cleaning lady provided corroboration of that fact. It goes towards our defense that Michael was not depraved in that he actually tried to save his son. Clearly, Michael was a terrible parent. He had his significant deficiencies. But in the end, he still loved Thomas and tried to save him in the end.”

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