Michael Valva is on trial, charged wth second-degree murder in...

Michael Valva is on trial, charged wth second-degree murder in the death of his 8-year-old son, Thomas. Credit: James Carbone

Ex-NYPD Officer Michael Valva, who is on trial for allegedly killing his 8-year-old son, Thomas, cried at the close of a police interview after Thomas’ 2020 hypothermia death and was consoled by hospital staff and a chaplain, the lead detective in the case testified Tuesday.

“When I ended the interview, I remember he did cry and put his hand to his face,” said Suffolk Police Sgt. Norberto Flores from the witness stand in a Riverhead courtroom.

Valva’s lead defense attorney John LoTurco, during his cross-examination of Flores, attempted to present a narrative of Valva as a loving father who cooperated with the initial police investigation — a stark alternative to the allegations painted by several prosecution witnesses of an abusive father who lied to investigators and first responders about how Thomas got some injuries the day of his death. 

Valva has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in Thomas’ Jan. 17, 2020 death. Prosecutors have alleged that Valva, 43, and his ex-fiancee, Angela Pollina, 45, forced Thomas and his older brother Anthony, both on the autism spectrum, to sleep in an unheated garage in freezing temperatures. Pollina has also pleaded not guilty and is set to be tried at a later date.

Prosecutors have also alleged that the boys were beaten and starved and have presented text messages between Valva and Pollina discussing the boys sleeping in the garage in cold weather and Valva’s intent to hit them. At the trial, prosecutors have also played video from inside the Valva home showing the boys sleeping in the garage, at one point shivering, and Valva striking one of the boys while screaming. 

The defense has argued that Valva was a loving, involved father who never intended for his son to die and therefore is not guilty of second-degree murder under the legal theory of depraved indifference. It was Pollina, the defense has argued, that forced the boys to sleep in the garage.

Flores said he interviewed Valva in a “family room” at Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue beginning about 11:28 a.m. Thomas had been pronounced dead in a nearby hospital trauma room exactly an hour earlier, at 10:28 a.m.

Flores said Valva agreed to speak to him, and was not read his Miranda rights because at that point he was not a suspect and the investigation was noncriminal. Valva was “matter of fact” as he recited the details of what he said happened to Thomas that morning — that Thomas fell on the concrete driveway while running to the school bus, which prosecutors contend is false.

Valva, during that police interview, told Flores that Thomas’ soiled clothing from that morning could be found on the back patio of the home in a plastic bag, Flores testified.

“He voiced no objection to having the officers at his home while he was at the hospital?” LoTurco asked.

“Correct,” Flores responded.

Despite Valva's tears during his police interview, he later texted an NYPD chaplain and someone else about other matters, Flores testified.

“Michael Valva asked Father Franco [the chaplain] if he could help him get a transfer to the property section in Queens,” said Flores when questioned on re-direct by lead prosecutor Kerriann Kelly.

And he texted someone else links to YouTube videos, Flores said.

“I believe they were video game links,” he said.

LoTurco also played the 911 call that Valva made the morning of Thomas’ death — the third time it was played during the trial — and questioned Flores on why investigators didn’t make a transcript of the call, which the defense maintains is favorable evidence for Valva because it shows him trying to save his son’s life.

“The 911 call, I felt, was pretty easy to hear,” Flores said.

An undated photograph of Thomas Valva.

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

Prosecutors have provided the jury with transcripts for a video of the home's combination laundry room and pantry, where the family dog Bella was held, which has served as key evidence for the prosecution because Valva, Pollina and some of the children can be heard on the video discussing Thomas’ condition in the hours leading up to his death. Flores said the video was sent to the FBI in an attempt to enhance the audio.

LoTurco, while questioning Flores, pointed out a key piece of that video – from about 9:40 a.m. to 9:51 a.m., which was during the time of Valva’s nearly 7-minute 911 call, is missing.

LoTurco also questioned Flores about an alleged sexual relationship between Pollina and Edward Concilio, her cousin by marriage who lived in the Center Moriches home about three days a week in the 15 months leading up to Thomas’ death. Concilio testified earlier at the trial that he was aware the boys slept in the garage but he didn’t confront Pollina about it because he was afraid of her wrath, which the defense has argued mirrored Valva’s own fear of Pollina.

Flores, who had reviewed text messages on the encrypted “WhatsApp” application between Pollina and Concilio, said the pair had an “inappropriate relationship” when asked if the pair had a sexual relationship and were “sexting.”

"Bill Clinton-esque?" LoTurco asked Flores. 

Several jurors laughed at the reference to the former president's sex scandal. Supreme Court Justice William Condon sustained a prosecution objection in response to the question. 

The trial continues in Riverhead on Wednesday.

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