Jurors in the Michael Valva trial saw text exchanges between Valva and Angela Pollina and again saw videos of Anthony and Thomas Valva in the garage, which prosecutors said was unheated. NewsdayTV’s Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone

A compilation of video clips and text messages presented Monday at Michael Valva’s second-degree murder trial in Riverhead showed the ex-NYPD officer and his former fiancee repeatedly lashing out at Thomas Valva and his older brother, Anthony, over toilet accidents in the years leading to Thomas’ hypothermia death on Jan. 17, 2020. 

One clip, recorded Nov. 15, 2019, on the home security system at the Center Moriches residence Valva and his three sons shared with his former fiancee, Angela Pollina, and her three daughters, shows Valva beating one of the boys in the garage where Suffolk prosecutors said they were forced to sleep, often in frigid conditions. 

Suffolk County Police Sgt. Roberto Flores testifies at Michael Valva's...

Suffolk County Police Sgt. Roberto Flores testifies at Michael Valva's murder trial on Monday in Riverhead. Credit: John Roca

Suffolk police Sgt. Norberto Flores, the lead detective in the investigation into Thomas’ death, said he could not tell if Valva was beating Thomas or Anthony, but a child could be heard crying in the video.

“Like I said, when I come home, I’m going to beat them with belts,” Valva said in a text to Pollina the following day. 

Valva, 43, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in connection with Thomas' death. Pollina, 45, has also pleaded not guilty and is slated to be tried later. 

Prosecutors have said Thomas died after the then-couple allegedly forced Thomas to sleep in the unheated garage of their home when the temperature was 19 degrees. He was 8 years old when he died. 

Valva's defense attorneys have conceded that their client was a deeply flawed father, but have argued he did not show depraved indifference as required for a second-degree murder conviction. They have blamed Pollina for Thomas’ death, saying that Valva had been emotionally and financially drained by an lengthy custody battle with the boys’ mother. Valva put up with Pollina’s bullying, they have said, because he had nowhere else to go. 

Some of the videos and text messages have already been shown to the jury that will decide Valva’s fate.The text messages, which range from 2019 until the week Thomas died in January 2020,  were interspersed with video clips Pollina sent to Valva while he worked an overnight shift as an NYPD transit cop. 

The text messages between Valva and Pollina showed that the pair frequently discussed the boys’ sleeping in the garage. 

Pollina complained to Valva about the boys’ incontinence problems and said she didn’t want them in the house because of it. But on more than one occasion, Valva referenced the boys not having access to a bathroom.

Two nights before Thomas’ death, on Jan. 15, 2020, Anthony and Thomas were in the garage at 10:42 p.m. and Thomas was awake. The high temperature that day was 51 degrees and the low was 30 degrees, according to prosecutors.

“Gee, seems like he has to go,” Valva texted to Pollina after she sent him a video of Anthony fidgeting on the floor. “If only he had a bathroom.”

Elelven months earlier, on Feb. 24, 2019, at 5:11 p.m., Anthony was seen in a video sitting cross-legged on the garage floor. The low temperature that day was 37 degrees.

Pollina texted Valva a few hours complaining that Anthony was awake and Valva replied: “Not surprised. It’s freezing. He’s on concrete.”

The next day, Valva unleashed on Pollina, writing: “My son is not going to be treated like an outcast anymore. He’s not going to be sleeping on concrete floor. He’s not going to be exiled. I’m not having it anymore.”

Pollina fired back: “If you’re not going to have it anymore than you could take him and you could leave. Not a problem. I’m not having him in this house anymore. ….You’re using his autism as an excuse.”

She continued: “You baby him.”

That night, according to prosecutors, the low temperature was 27 degrees.

The day after he beat one of his sons, Valva sent a text message to Pollina after she complained about toilet accidents. 

“OK, I’ll beat them up again,” Valva wrote. “Talking doesn’t work, maybe a bloody face will.” 

On Jan. 5, 2020 — 12 days before Thomas died — Pollina called Thomas an [expletive] for taking a towel out of the dirty clothes hamper “to cover himself.” The low temperature that night was 33 degrees, prosecutors said.

Valva replied: “He’s lost everything. What else is there to lose.”

Pollina countered: “Nothing fazes him.”

At 3 a.m., Valva texted to say it was snowing and “real cold out,” adding that the “boys better not get hypothermia.” 

Earlier in the day, Flores testified that he heard Valva and Pollina discuss deleting home security video from the system on the day Thomas died. Prosecutors played a clip showing Flores speaking to Valva at 2:46 p.m. on Jan. 17, 2020 — Thomas was pronounced dead about four hours earlier at 10:28 a.m. -- in the living area of his Bittersweet Lane home. 

An undated photograph of Thomas Valva.

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

Flores testified that he assured Valva the police department "would attempt to not release anything" about Thomas' death in a "media release" and offered his condolences to Valva and Pollina, who was sitting on the couch next to an NYPD chaplain. 

Moments after Flores departed the home, the video showed Pollina rising from the couch and walking over to Valva and telling him she "deleted the history," Flores said. 

Valva, standing next to two NYPD officers instructed, her to "Change the password now." 

Defense attorney John LoTurco began his cross examination of Flores shortly before court ended on Monday and will continue questioning the Suffolk officer on Tuesday. State Supreme Court Justice William Condon told the jury that they should expect to get the case sometime next week. 

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