Thomas Valva Snapshot

‘I’m going to beat them with belts’: Dad, Fiancée’Repeatedly Lashed Out’ at 8-year-old Thomas Valva, Who Froze Inside Unheated Garage

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 were caught on text messages discussing punishments and beating two children with belts.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, 43-year-old Michael Valva is currently on trial for the murder of Thomas, who froze to death in 2020 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.

According to Suffolk Police Sgt. Norberto Flores, identified as the lead detective in the case, home security footage obtained from the Valva household showed children crying while they were being beaten.

Newsday reports that Flores admitted he couldn’t tell if Thomas or his 10-year-old brother Anthony was being hit, but he could hear children crying in the audio.

The next day, Valva allegedly sent a text to Pollina, indicating he would beat the boys “with belts” when they returned home.

“Like I said, when I come home, I’m going to beat them with belts,” Valva said in a text to Pollina the following day.

Other text messages allegedly revealed Valva and Pollina discussing making the boys sleep in the unheated garage. The text messages exchange started in 2019 and lasted until Thomas’ 2020 death, the court heard.

Pollina complained frequently about the boys urinating on themselves and allegedly said she didn’t want them in the house. Valva reportedly replied that the boys didn’t have access to use the restroom in the garage.

“Gee, seems like he has to go,” Valva texted to Pollina after seeing a video of Anthony on the floor, fidgeting around. “If only he had a bathroom.”

Another video, which took place in February 2019, showed Anthony “sitting cross-legged on the garage floor,” with temperatures dropping to 37 degrees on the day in question. Pollina texted Valva and complained that the child was still awake.

“Not surprised. It’s freezing. He’s on concrete,” Valva replied.

The following day, an argument ensued between the couple during text messages, the court heard.

Valva: “My son is not going to be treated like an outcast anymore. He’s not going to be sleeping on concrete floor. He’s not going to be exiled. I’m not having it anymore.”

Pollina:  “If you’re not going to have it anymore than you could take him and you could leave. Not a problem. I’m not having him in this house anymore. ….You’re using his autism as an excuse.”
Michael Valva and Angela Pollina/Suffolk County Police Department

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 Anthony, who were both autistic.

Schneyer said that within the span of one school year, 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.”

Thomas Valva
Photo of a younger Thomas Valva/Family Handout

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.

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 in January 2020, he had no emotion, 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