RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (PIX11) — A jury now prepares to decide the fate of Michael Valva, the father of an 8-year-old boy who’s accused of freezing the child to death as well as other abuse of the boy and the boy’s brother.
Closing arguments were presented on Thursday by both Valva’s defense attorneys and by prosecutors.
Valva’s lawyers said that their client had been abusive of his son, Thomas, 8. However, they argued Valva had not committed the second-degree murder for which he was charged. Instead, they said that much lower charges were appropriate.
“We accept that Michael failed” his children “in a criminally negligent manner,” defense attorney John LoTurco said in court to the jury.
The judge has made clear to the jury that they can convict Valva on lesser charges than second-degree murder, which carries a prison sentence of 25 years to life. Second-degree manslaughter is another possible conviction. Its sentence is five to 15 years. They could also convict on criminally negligent homicide charges, which would result in a sentence of up to four years.
For their part, prosecutors argued that Valva, a former NYPD officer, committed murder. They drew jurors’ attention once again to evidence showing that his son had been forced to live in the family’s unheated garage for months, without any blankets, including on the day he died, when the temperature outside was 19 degrees.
Thomas and his 10-year-old brother, both of whom had autism, were forced to live under the same torturous conditions, prosecutors said. The 10-year-old is now in foster care.
They also reviewed testimony from a variety of witnesses, including teachers from the boy’s school, who described Thomas as being severely underfed and showing signs of physical abuse, regularly.
Jury deliberations begin on Friday in criminal court.