A doctor took the stand Monday as a rebuttal witness in connection with the death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva, whose father, Michael Valva, is on trial at the Suffolk County court in New York for murder.
Dr. David Saintsing, who testified as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution, said that it was “reasonably likely” that Thomas, who passed away in 2020, suffered a heart attack, causing fatal damage.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Valva is currently on trial for the murder of his son Thomas, who froze to death in 2020 after being forced to sleep in an unheated garage in their Long Island 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.
Saintsing rebutted the findings of Dr. Ken Zafren, who testified for the defense that Thomas went into cardiac arrest on the morning of his death after his father put him in a warm bath.
According to Zafren, Thomas could have been “resuscitated for hours after his 10:28 a.m. death,” Newsday reports, adding that doctors should have treated the boy for hypothermia immediately after he arrived at the Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue.
Sainstring, however, said that Thomas’ chances for survival were “dismal” and that the “care staff behaved and provided care in an exemplary fashion and were beyond reproach.”
Defense lawyer Anthony LaPinta argued Saintstring’s findings, accusing him of having little experience with hypothermia.
“So I think it’s very clear that this witness has very, very little, minimal experience in hypothermia,” LaPinta says. “It was just so abundantly clear from cross-examination and hence, I don’t think any of the conclusions he’s reached regarding hypothermia should be given much weight at all.”
Prosecutors said that Thomas and his 10-year-old brother Anthony were forced to sleep in a freezing garage and that the defendant hosed Thomas down with a water hose outside on the morning of his death.
Prosecutors told the jury during opening statements 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