Lawyer of ex-cop charged in son’s death paints ex-fiancée as ‘wicked, cruel stepmother’

Local News

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — The gloves came off Wednesday in the child abuse murder case against former NYPD officer Michael Valva and his now ex-fiancée, Angela Pollina.

In a sign of what’s to come, the defense attorney for Valva said Pollina was a “wicked, cruel stepmother” who “despised” his two older sons with autism.

Valva’s 8-year-old son, Thomas, was discovered dying — blue and cold — in the family’s basement in Center Moriches on Jan. 17, 2020.

Both Michael Valva, a former transit cop, and Pollina, are charged with murder in the child’s death.

At the heart of the prosecution’s case is medical evidence that Thomas died of hypothermia after being forced to sleep in a freezing garage on a 19-degree winter night, allegedly because he soiled his pajamas.

Thomas Valva, 8, died after an incident at his Center Moriches home (Photo courtesy of Justyna Zubko-Valva/Thomas Valva’s mother)

Valva’s attorney, John LoTurco, was already laying out his legal strategy during a pretrial hearing Wednesday: point the finger at Pollina.

“Michael Valva really was meek, he was passive,” LoTurco said outside Riverhead Criminal Court. “He was manipulated.”

LoTurco claimed Pollina had control over all of the video surveillance in the home.

“She was monitoring those children,” he said. “I would describe her as a wicked, cruel stepmother.”

Last week, LoTurco said Pollina meted out the discipline in the blended family, which included her three daughters and Valva’s three sons.

Meanwhile the defense attorneys are trying to suppress audio and video evidence before the trial, arguing it wasn’t obtained properly from the homeowners.

Pollina’s attorney said earlier this week his client was pressured by the lead homicide detective to allow cops to take the surveillance video, even as Pollina was being treated with Xanax at a hospital following Thomas’ death.

One video allegedly showed Pollina dragging Thomas down a flight of stairs a day and a half before he died because he had soiled his pants.

When PIX11 asked Pollina’s attorney Matt Tuohy about his client’s alleged actions, he replied: “Because something happened on one day doesn’t mean that somebody is responsible on another day.” 

Tuohy insisted Pollina is innocent.

“The jurors are going to come to the right decision,” he added.

Pollina was supposed to testify Wednesday morning in the pre-trial hearing, but her attorney changed his mind, believing it wasn’t legally wise.

When PIX11 asked Valva’s attorney about audio recordings that allegedly indicated he mocked his son’s discomfort in the freezing cold garage, LoTurco responded: “Some of the statements that Michael Valva made on the day of the incident were highly regrettable, and they had nothing to do with his intent.  Obviously, he tried to save his child on the day.”

Valva told a 911 operator that Thomas fell and hit his head on the concrete driveway while running for the school bus.

Prosecutors said last year that the evidence showed a different scenario. The child’s body temperature was startling 76 degrees when he was pronounced dead.

The case in Judge William Condon’s courtroom is still months away from trial.

The defense and prosecution have to submit written, closing arguments by June 17. Oral arguments will resume in July.

The trial is expected to begin in September, but defense attorneys don’t want Valva and Pollina tried together.

“You’re going to have two parties that are blaming one another,” LoTurco noted.

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