John LoTurco, standing, lead defense attorney for former NYPD Officer...

John LoTurco, standing, lead defense attorney for former NYPD Officer Michael Valva, seated to the right, presents closing arguments to the jury in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Thursday. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Ex-NYPD cop Michael Valva treated his 8-year-old son, Thomas, so poorly in the final moments of his life, screaming at him and striking him as he died of hypothermia, that he should be convicted of the top murder charge, a Suffolk prosecutor argued Thursday during closing statements in Valva’s murder trial.

But Valva’s defense attorney argued none of the actions Valva took that day demonstrated he wanted his son to die but instead show he made a valiant effort to save the boy’s life.

Those were the countering narratives presented Thursday inside a Riverhead courtroom packed with some 70 onlookers — including the lead detective in the case and several schoolteachers who taught Thomas and his older brother Anthony — in Valva’s more than monthlong murder trial. The jury is expected to begin deliberations Friday.

Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly reminded jurors of the allegations: Valva beat, starved and emotionally abused his sons to placate his domineering former fiancee, Angela Pollina. The abuse began, according to prosecutors, in 2017 after Valva got custody of Thomas and his brothers, Anthony and Andrew — and they moved in to their home on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches with Pollina and her three daughters. 

Valva attorney John LoTurco admitted Valva was an abusive father, but he said the former transit cop did not realize Thomas was in medical distress before he died. He urged the jury to convict Valva of criminally negligent homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison, rather than second-degree murder, which could land Valva in prison for 25 years to life. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Valva never wanted Thomas to die,” LoTurco said to the jurors. “Michael Valva did not want Thomas to die despite his horrible words, despite his parental deficiencies. Michael loved Thomas."

LoTurco pointed out to the jury "the most critical time period" of 9 minutes and 22 seconds in which a video from inside the house had "no sound." That period of time, he said, was when housekeeper Tyrene Rodriguez testified she saw Thomas, Valva and Pollina walking from the garage to the basement. Prosecutors have disputed that, citing Rodriguez's earlier police statement that Valva was "cradling" Thomas.

LoTurco mentioned a 10-minute time period beginning at about 9:41 a.m. — when Valva called 911 — when he said the video was also "completely missing." 

LoTurco questioned why the prosecution didn't call several witnesses, including a police sergeant who spoke to Rodriguez soon after Thomas was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, calling that conversation "the best evidence of what happened." 

LoTurco also questioned why the prosecution didn't call workers from Child Protective Services. "Where are they?" LoTurco asked. 

On Thursday, Kelly showed the jury a video clip of Valva beating one of his sons, and another of Anthony shivering as he slept on the cold floor. In another clip, the boys are seen sitting cross-legged on the garage floor, eating dinner from paper plates. 

Kelly also showed text exchanges between Valva and Pollina, including one where Valva said, “OK, I’ll beat them up again. Talking don’t work. Maybe a bloody face will.”

Valva, 43, charged with second-degree murder and four counts of child endangerment, had pleaded not guilty to the charges. On Thursday, LoTurco agreed with prosecutors that Valva was guilty of child endangerment but not second-degree murder, which could land the ex-cop in prison for 25 years to life. 

Supreme Court Justice William Condon ruled on Tuesday that the jury could consider the second-degree manslaughter charge, which is punishable by five to 15 years in prison, or criminally negligent homicide.

Pollina, also charged with second-degree murder and four counts of child endangerment, has pleaded not guilty and is expected to face trial some time early next year. 

 Many of the witnesses who previously testified in the case — including teachers and staff at East Moriches Elementary School, who had filed numerous reports of abuse against Valva and Pollina with Child Protective services — were among the crowd of spectators who filled the courtroom. Also present was Suffolk Police Sgt. Norberto Flores, the lead detective in the case.  

LoTurco argued that Valva’s cruelties did not make him a murderer and that he did not realize that his actions would lead to Thomas’ death. Anthony had been banished to the garage more frequently than Thomas, including the night before Thomas died, LoTurco said. 

“Let’s remember Anthony suffered no ill effects of being in the garage,” LoTurco said. 

In her closing statement, Kelly challenged LoTurco’s assertion that Valva loved Thomas.

After Thomas' death, she said Valva didn’t send any text messages saying that he loved Thomas or missed him.

Instead, Kelly pointed out, he sent a video game link to his friend on the day his son died. And, she said, he texted a police union official to "get five pizzas and make sure you get the ones with the garlic knot crust." 

Four days after Thomas' death, he was not feeling regret or remorse over his son, Kelly said.

"He had a complete and utter disdain for Thomas's life, and once Thomas died, all he cared about was his life and Angela's life." 

The teacher's testimony established, Kelly said, that Valva was "neither a guardian nor a protector, not even a champion" of his sons. 

Attacking a main theme of the defense's summation, Kelly said it was "irrelevant that he didn't want his son to die" and detailed how Valva's words and actions that day were depraved. 

Kelly also urged the jury to dismiss the testimony of Dr. Ken Zafren, an Alaska-based doctor and hypothermia expert, who said Thomas went into cardiac arrest that morning because Valva put him in a warm bath, which contributed to his hypothermia. 

Thomas was already suffering from severe to profound hypothermia that morning, Kelly said, and it wasn't caused by "some silly bath or shower." 

Kelly also posited that Valva lied about giving Thomas a bath that morning, pointing out that there was no water in the tub. 

"Can you imagine a parent finding their 8-year-old unresponsive?" Kelly asked the jury. "Who let the water out of the tub? Where's the chaos? It's just not true." 

"The shower's just a cover-up from what he did in the backyard," Kelly said. 

 "The defendant was obsessed with Angela Pollina, so much so that he put his children under her … to the detriment of his children," Kelly said. "He did not want that relationship to end." 

Pollina and Valva were back in bed together in their home on Bittersweet Lane when police came to their house to arrest them on Jan. 24, 2020, Kelly noted.

Thomas' backpack, with his name written in pen, was still on the garage floor, where it had been left the morning he died, Kelly said. 

It was the kind of belonging that any loving, grieving parent would have latched onto, she said.

"It meant nothing to him," Kelly said of the backpack. "Just like Thomas." 

Ex-NYPD cop Michael Valva treated his 8-year-old son, Thomas, so poorly in the final moments of his life, screaming at him and striking him as he died of hypothermia, that he should be convicted of the top murder charge, a Suffolk prosecutor argued Thursday during closing statements in Valva’s murder trial.

But Valva’s defense attorney argued none of the actions Valva took that day demonstrated he wanted his son to die but instead show he made a valiant effort to save the boy’s life.

Those were the countering narratives presented Thursday inside a Riverhead courtroom packed with some 70 onlookers — including the lead detective in the case and several schoolteachers who taught Thomas and his older brother Anthony — in Valva’s more than monthlong murder trial. The jury is expected to begin deliberations Friday.

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly on Thursday addresses the...

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly on Thursday addresses the jury during closing arguments in Michael Valva's murder trial in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead. Credit: Alejandra Villa

Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly reminded jurors of the allegations: Valva beat, starved and emotionally abused his sons to placate his domineering former fiancee, Angela Pollina. The abuse began, according to prosecutors, in 2017 after Valva got custody of Thomas and his brothers, Anthony and Andrew — and they moved in to their home on Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches with Pollina and her three daughters. 

Valva attorney John LoTurco admitted Valva was an abusive father, but he said the former transit cop did not realize Thomas was in medical distress before he died. He urged the jury to convict Valva of criminally negligent homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison, rather than second-degree murder, which could land Valva in prison for 25 years to life. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Valva never wanted Thomas to die,” LoTurco said to the jurors. “Michael Valva did not want Thomas to die despite his horrible words, despite his parental deficiencies. Michael loved Thomas."

LoTurco pointed out to the jury "the most critical time period" of 9 minutes and 22 seconds in which a video from inside the house had "no sound." That period of time, he said, was when housekeeper Tyrene Rodriguez testified she saw Thomas, Valva and Pollina walking from the garage to the basement. Prosecutors have disputed that, citing Rodriguez's earlier police statement that Valva was "cradling" Thomas.

LoTurco mentioned a 10-minute time period beginning at about 9:41 a.m. — when Valva called 911 — when he said the video was also "completely missing." 

LoTurco questioned why the prosecution didn't call several witnesses, including a police sergeant who spoke to Rodriguez soon after Thomas was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, calling that conversation "the best evidence of what happened." 

LoTurco also questioned why the prosecution didn't call workers from Child Protective Services. "Where are they?" LoTurco asked. 

An undated photograph of Thomas Valva.

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

On Thursday, Kelly showed the jury a video clip of Valva beating one of his sons, and another of Anthony shivering as he slept on the cold floor. In another clip, the boys are seen sitting cross-legged on the garage floor, eating dinner from paper plates. 

Kelly also showed text exchanges between Valva and Pollina, including one where Valva said, “OK, I’ll beat them up again. Talking don’t work. Maybe a bloody face will.”

Valva, 43, charged with second-degree murder and four counts of child endangerment, had pleaded not guilty to the charges. On Thursday, LoTurco agreed with prosecutors that Valva was guilty of child endangerment but not second-degree murder, which could land the ex-cop in prison for 25 years to life. 

Supreme Court Justice William Condon ruled on Tuesday that the jury could consider the second-degree manslaughter charge, which is punishable by five to 15 years in prison, or criminally negligent homicide.

Pollina, also charged with second-degree murder and four counts of child endangerment, has pleaded not guilty and is expected to face trial some time early next year. 

 Many of the witnesses who previously testified in the case — including teachers and staff at East Moriches Elementary School, who had filed numerous reports of abuse against Valva and Pollina with Child Protective services — were among the crowd of spectators who filled the courtroom. Also present was Suffolk Police Sgt. Norberto Flores, the lead detective in the case.  

LoTurco argued that Valva’s cruelties did not make him a murderer and that he did not realize that his actions would lead to Thomas’ death. Anthony had been banished to the garage more frequently than Thomas, including the night before Thomas died, LoTurco said. 

“Let’s remember Anthony suffered no ill effects of being in the garage,” LoTurco said. 

In her closing statement, Kelly challenged LoTurco’s assertion that Valva loved Thomas.

After Thomas' death, she said Valva didn’t send any text messages saying that he loved Thomas or missed him.

Instead, Kelly pointed out, he sent a video game link to his friend on the day his son died. And, she said, he texted a police union official to "get five pizzas and make sure you get the ones with the garlic knot crust." 

Four days after Thomas' death, he was not feeling regret or remorse over his son, Kelly said.

"He had a complete and utter disdain for Thomas's life, and once Thomas died, all he cared about was his life and Angela's life." 

The teacher's testimony established, Kelly said, that Valva was "neither a guardian nor a protector, not even a champion" of his sons. 

Attacking a main theme of the defense's summation, Kelly said it was "irrelevant that he didn't want his son to die" and detailed how Valva's words and actions that day were depraved. 

Kelly also urged the jury to dismiss the testimony of Dr. Ken Zafren, an Alaska-based doctor and hypothermia expert, who said Thomas went into cardiac arrest that morning because Valva put him in a warm bath, which contributed to his hypothermia. 

Thomas was already suffering from severe to profound hypothermia that morning, Kelly said, and it wasn't caused by "some silly bath or shower." 

Kelly also posited that Valva lied about giving Thomas a bath that morning, pointing out that there was no water in the tub. 

"Can you imagine a parent finding their 8-year-old unresponsive?" Kelly asked the jury. "Who let the water out of the tub? Where's the chaos? It's just not true." 

"The shower's just a cover-up from what he did in the backyard," Kelly said. 

 "The defendant was obsessed with Angela Pollina, so much so that he put his children under her … to the detriment of his children," Kelly said. "He did not want that relationship to end." 

Pollina and Valva were back in bed together in their home on Bittersweet Lane when police came to their house to arrest them on Jan. 24, 2020, Kelly noted.

Thomas' backpack, with his name written in pen, was still on the garage floor, where it had been left the morning he died, Kelly said. 

It was the kind of belonging that any loving, grieving parent would have latched onto, she said.

"It meant nothing to him," Kelly said of the backpack. "Just like Thomas." 

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