A New York detective took the stand Monday at the Suffolk Superior Court and said the father and stepmother of deceased 8-year-old Thomas Valva discussed deleting home security footage on the day he died.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, 43-year-old Michael Valva is currently on trial for the murder of Thomas, who froze to death after being forced to sleep in an unheated garage. The temperatures on the night in question had plummeted to 19 degrees.
Valva’s then-fiancée, Angela Pollina, 45, is a co-defendant in the case. Both defendants pleaded not guilty to murder and child endangerment charges. Pollina’s trial has not yet started.
The lead detective in the case, Suffolk Police Sgt. Norberto Flores, testified Monday that Polina and Valva were caught on home security footage discussing deleted footage and changing passwords, Newsday reports.
“I believe I hear Angela Pollina say she deleted the history,” Flores said while listening to audio recorded the day Thomas died. “And I believe I hear Michael Valva say ‘change the password now.'”
On Monday, prosecutors played the undeleted video clip which shows Flores talking to Valva on January 17, 2020, at around 2:46 p.m., four hours after the boy was pronounced dead.
Shortly after Flores left Valva’s home, the clip showed Pollina tell Valva that she “deleted the history,” Flores testified. Valva, who was standing by Pollina two NYPD cops, told Polina to “change the password now.”
Prosecutors say that both Valva and Pollina forced Thomas and his older brother, Anthony, to sleep in the unheated garage for numerous months before Thomas passed away.
Earlier this month, East Moriches Elementary School Principal, Edward Schneyer, testified that six children from the Valva and the Polina family attended the school. Schneyer said he knew the family well including Thomas and his 10-year-old brother, Anthony, who were both autistic.
Schneyer said that within the span of one school year, Thomas’ brother Anthony lost around 20 pounds, adding that their food had been monitored. Further, according to News12 the Bronx, both children were initially potty trained when they started school but both eventually started attending classes in pull-up training diapers.
Schneyer said both boys would consistently show up to school with bruises and scrapes. Meanwhile, the boys’ behavior began to change, Schneyer said. The school “flooded CPS with calls” about concerns for the children, which resulted in Michael Valva threatening to sue the school for harassment.
Michael Valva’s defense attorney, John LoTurco, told the court that despite any allegations of neglect, Michael never wanted his son to die and isn’t guilty of murder.
“Everyone needs to be focused on not the neglect, child endangerment, but rather the depraved murder charge. There is no evidence to show that Mr. Valva wanted his child to die.”
Prosecutors told the jury that Thomas and Anthony suffered years of abuse at the hands of their father, often arriving at school with bruises and scratching — and hungry.
“They were observed at school literally eating crumbs off the floor,” assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Laura Newcombe said.
Newcombe also related a text Valva sent to Pollina.
“I will beat them until they bleed,” he wrote, according to Newcombe. “It is the only thing that works.”
Valva’s attorney laid the blame at Pollina’s feet, saying she constantly told him he was being too lenient with the boys and that Valva was desperate to make things work. He painted her as the wicked stepmother.
“You are making it too comfortable for them,” she allegedly told Valva, according to attorney Anthony La Pinta. “Let them be uncomfortable. That will teach them to control themselves.”
Valva, La Pinta said during his opening statement, “never ever thought that either of his boys could die from being in that garage,” WCBS reported.
When Valva arrived at the hospital to see his son, he had no emotion, again, paramedic Erin Lambert previously testified.
“There were no tears. There was no emotion,” Lambert said, recalling when the suspect saw his son in a bed at the hospital.
“Somebody, a staff member came into the room and asked him if he needed a drink, a chair, to make a phone call. He turned and said, ‘No, I’ve been in more stressful situations.’”
The trial continues. Check back for updates.
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[Featured image: Thomas Valva/Handout]
Additional reporting by Ellen Killoran and KC Wildmoon