RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (PIX11) — The murder and child endangerment trial of former NYPD officer Michael Valva in the death of his son began Wednesday morning in criminal court on Long Island.
Valva is accused of fatally abusing his 8-year-old son Thomas. An autopsy revealed the elementary schooler froze to death.
On the morning of Jan. 17, 2020, police responded to a 911 call at the Valva home in Center Moriches. Michael Valva had placed the call and was performing CPR on the boy when officers and EMTs arrived. Thomas was declared dead shortly after at a nearby hospital.
The police investigation revealed details, from Valva’s ex-wife as well as teachers and others, of alleged physical abuse and neglect by Valva and his then-fiancée, Angela Pollina.
In court on Wednesday, prosecutors opened the trial by stating Thomas had been forced for months to live in the family’s garage, which had registered a temperature of 19 degrees at the time he’d been found. Prosecutors also said teachers had reported that Thomas was consistently and severely underfed, and showed physical signs of abuse.
Attorneys for Valva, in their opening statement, acknowledged that their client had Thomas live in the garage without blankets and had verbally abused his children as punishment. Thomas lived in the garage with his 10-year-old brother. Both boys had autism and were not able to control their bodily functions, according to defense attorneys.
They further argued that Pollina had spurred Valva to carry out the abuse. Pollina also faces charges in the case but in a separate trial.
They also said that Thomas died after Valva had tried to help the boy clean himself with warm water after the boy had been in sub-freezing conditions. The situation resulted in what’s called vasoconstriction, which caused blood to rush away from his vital organs, defense attorneys said.
They argued that their client did not commit murder, despite being involved in hurting his sons.
“Michael has taken responsibility for doing what he did, saying what he said,” lead defense attorney Anthony La Pinta said in comments outside of court.
La Pinta also addressed Pollina’s involvement in Thomas’s death.
“We’re not saying, you know, that she’s the fault of all of this. There’s fault all around here,” La Pinta said.
Valva faces one count of murder, and four counts of child endangerment, including the endangerment of Thomas’s brother.
PIX11 News asked Valva’s attorney if his team is acknowledging that their client committed acts of child endangerment.
“May he be guilty of other crimes?” La Pinta commented, in question form. “We’re not there yet.”
Valva’s ex-fiancée will face similar charges in a separate trial.
Michael Valva’s trial is expected to last at least three weeks, and include more than 30 witnesses, as well as NEST surveillance camera video from Valva’s home, as well as text messages from his and Pollina’s phones, among other pieces of evidence.