RIVERHEAD, N.Y. -- A jury convicted a former New York City police officer on Friday of second-degree murder in the death of his 8-year-old son, who was forced to sleep overnight on the concrete floor of a freezing garage.
Michael Valva was found guilty of four counts of child endangerment and faces a maximum potential sentence of 25 years to life. Thomas Valva died in January 2020, the day after sleeping in the garage in the family’s Long Island home in temperatures that dropped under 20 degrees (minus 6 Celsius).
Friday’s verdict came on the first day of deliberations after a month’s worth of testimony.
A medical examiner ruled the boy’s death a homicide and found that hypothermia was a major contributing factor. Prosecutors said Thomas and his 10-year-old brother were both on the autism spectrum and were at times forced to sleep in the garage.
According to prosecutors, the boys spent 16 consecutive hours in the freezing garage leading up to the 8-year-old's death, Newsday reported. Prosecutors also alleged Michael Valva did nothing to help him as the boy died in front of him and then lied to police and first responders.
The child endangerment counts stemmed from the beating and starving of both boys. Their teachers testified the boys came to school with bruises and often were so hungry they ate crumbs off the floor, according to the newspaper.
“While there is nothing that we can do to bring Thomas back, we are satisfied with the jury’s decision,” Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney said in a statement. “Michael Valva subjected his sons to horrific abuse, neglect and cruelty. He will now pay for cutting short the life of a young, innocent, defenseless boy who had a lifetime ahead of him.”
Valva’s then-fiancee, Angela Pollina, also faces child endangerment and second-degree murder counts and is awaiting trial. She has pleaded not guilty.