- NYPD officer Michael Valva and his girlfriend Angelina Polina have been charged with second-degree murder for the death of his autistic son Thomas
- Prosecutors believe Valva forced the child to sleep in an unfinished garage when the temperature dropped to 19 degrees
- The medical examiner ruled Thomas’ death a homicide, saying hypothermia was a “major contributing factor”
- The mother of Valva’s sons, Justyna Zubko-Valva, lost custody of their three children
- Zubko-Valva believes Child Protective Services and the courts failed to protect her children
- For years, Zubko-Valva has been telling CPS, courts and social media that Valva was abusing her children
Details are still emerging after NYPD officer Michael Valva, 40, and his fiancée Angelina Polina, 42, were charged with second-degree murder for the death of his 8-year-old autistic son. The couple is accused of forcing the child to sleep in their garage in freezing temperatures. Valva went as far as to mock the child as he collapsed on the floor from hypothermia at their Center Moriches home.
The Fake Image
The couple shared their home with Valva’s three sons and Polina’s three girls. To the public, the couple portrayed an image of a loving household. However, a former babysitter for the family, Amanda Wildman, told the New York Post that image could not be further from the truth.
It’s sad. They wanted to give the impression they were the ‘Brady Bunch’ family when it was more like a home crashing.
There was always screaming. The boys were constantly being yelled at. There never was a day where somebody wasn’t screaming and the boys would just sit there quietly and take it.Amanda Wildman Via The New York Post
The Death Of Thomas Valva
Officials believe Valva’s son Thomas was exiled to the unfinished garage the night before his death. The temperature would drop to 19 degrees that night according to Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart. “We believe certainly that Thomas was kept in the garage overnight preceding his death,” Hart said. On Friday, more horrifying details have come to light regarding Thomas’ death.
At Valva’s arraignment, prosecutors disclosed that he and Polina taunted Thomas for being cold the morning he died. According to Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe, Thomas was “face-planting” on the floor because he was hypothermic. Newcombe cited audio recordings taken from a home security system in the couple’s home.
Prosecutors say a child can be heard asking why Thomas cannot walk. Polina responds, “because he’s hypothermic.” Polina went on to say, “When you wash with cold water and it’s freezing out you become hypothermic.” She later asked Valva, “Do you know why he’s falling?” According to Newcombe, Valva responded “Because he’s cold. Boo fucking hoo.”
“I’m Fucking Suffocating Him That’s What I’m Doing”
At one point in the audio recordings, Polina walked into the garage and asked Valva what he was doing. Valva responded, “I’m fucking suffocating him that’s what I’m doing.” Polina responded, “Take your hands off his mouth. There are people everywhere.” Authorities responded to a call at the couple’s home on Bittersweet Lane at 9:40 a.m. after Valva reported Thomas fell in the driveway while waiting for his school bus an hour prior.
According to Hart, when officers arrived Valva was performing CPR on his son in the basement. Medics rushed Thomas to Long Island Community Hospital. When he arrived his body temperature was 76 degrees. Hypothermia begins when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Thomas was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Hart said an investigation “revealed inconsistencies in timing and nature of the child’s injuries reported by the father.” Police determined the child was never in the driveway that morning. Thomas also suffered from head and facial injuries that were deemed inconsistent with Valva’s account of what had happened. The medical examiner ruled Thomas’ death a homicide with hypothermia being a “major contributing factor.” It was reported the day before his death Valva had beat Thomas. Part of Thomas’ punishment was to stay in the garage.
A History Of Abuse
Authorities said the couple was “closely monitoring the activities and conversations” of the six children in the home. Nearly every room in the house had cameras that were labeled according to the child’s name and room. The camera in the garage was labeled “kids room,” suggesting the space was used for discipline on more than this one horrifying occurrence.
Investigators believe both Thomas and his autistic 10-year-old brother Anthony were dealt inhumane punishments, such as “food deprivation and exposure to extremely frigid temperatures” according to Hart. Hart said investigators are still trying to determine the extent of the abuse and if all the children were victims. Two nights before Thomas died, surveillance footage showed he and Anthony were forced to sleep on the concrete. The children were “shivering” as they laid on the concrete floor with no pillows, blankets, or mattress.
Documented Abuse Ignored By CPS And Judges
So how was an NYPD officer allowed to abuse these children without Child Protective Services knowing? It appears they did know. Justyna Zubko-Valva, 36, is the mother of Valva’s three sons. She lost custody of the children to Valva in 2017 but has claimed for years he was abusing the children. Her cries for help went ignored by both CPS caseworkers and judges. Hart noted that authorities attempted to do a welfare check at the residence in May 2019 but the family was not home.
Zubko-Valva became so frustrated by the system ignoring her claims that she finally began using Twitter as a place to document the concerns of her and others. Zubko-Valva went under the name “Stand Against Child Abuse” on Twitter. Her first tweet went out on January 7, 2018. On that same day, Zubko-Valva uploaded three videos. In the first video, one of the children tells their mother Valva did not allow him to have breakfast for being a bad boy.
My children are punished by their father and his girlfriend to express their loving feelings towards their mommy#stopchildabuse pic.twitter.com/Ic5YBAFcqS— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) January 7, 2018
In a second video, the child says he is not allowed to eat breakfast and cannot see Zubko-Valva.
My children are being harmed and abused for a very long time by their father and his girlfriend, but nobody wants to help them #standagainstchildabuse#parentalalienation pic.twitter.com/txOP3ZZA7e— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) January 7, 2018
In the third video, Zubko-Valva asks, “What’s going to happen if you tell me that you love me and miss me and give me a kiss and a hug? What’s going to happen?” The child responds, “Then daddy’s gonna put me outside.”
On January 18, Zubko-Valva uploaded a video showing Valva’s treatment of the children. Zubko-Valva met Valva outside her home for him to drop the children off. Anthony gets out of the car and runs to his mother. Valva refuses to let go of the other two brothers’ hands. One of the child is seen hitting Valva while trying to go to Zubko-Valva. By the time Valva hand the children over, all three children are crying as Zubko-Valva takes them inside to try and calm their anxiety.
Cop father forbids the children from coming to their mommy by painfully squeezing their hands and making them cry in order to prove that children do not want to come to their mommy. The father of my kids is a cop who is allowed to abuse bis children #PoliceBrutality pic.twitter.com/dIL30Eox30— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) January 19, 2018
The Children Were Not Being Fed
The next tweet from Zubko-Valva’s account was on November 22, 2018. Zubko-Valva uploaded two pictures of two letters, one of was from the school psychologist, Renee Emin. Emin writes that her, “Biggest concern is that Mr. Valva and his fiance Angela do not understand the depth of Anthony and Thomas’ disabilities.” She notes that Anthony had lost a “significant amount of weight this year, 11 lbs since his last physical.” Valva claimed Anthony’s weight loss was due to him being “more active.” Anthony and Thomas were said to frequently come to school hungry. Valva and Polina were asked to provide more food during the school day but failed to do so. Both children would often come to school hungry because of not eating breakfast. The children said they did not receive breakfast either because they did not ask or they got in trouble.
According to Emin, the boys were afraid to go to the school nurse’s office. Valva and Polina had told the children not to go to the nurse’s office after the school nurse got involved in a CPS case that started when multiple bruises were discovered on Thomas’s bottom. The bruises were said to have been caused by Valva. Throughout the winter both children “appeared to be sick for a number of weeks and were not appropriately taken care of with rest or doctors’ visits.”
Concerns for the family from Anthony and Thomas’ teacher, Nicole Papa, included the boys saying they were not allowed to eat breakfast if they did not use their manners, say good morning to Polina and sometimes for no reason at all. The boys came to school hungry “most days.” The typical lunch they brought to school consisted of half a Nutella sandwich, two snacks, and a water bottle. Papa said she often provided the two children with snacks and juice throughout the day.
Papa also mentioned the children being afraid to see the school nurse. She was told Polina had told them to not go to the nurse. Papa also noted that in September of 2017 Valva said he was going to take Anthony for “a nuero psych” to identify his autism but failed to do so over six months later. She said the boys were “coming in with visible dirt on their bodies for days in a row.” Anthony had lost 11 pounds in nine months and Thomas had only gained one pound in 20 months.
Thanksgiving Wish— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) November 22, 2018
Praying to receive justice for my three little children who are being severely abused mentally and physically by their father and his woman. My children cannot receive any protection, help, and justice. pic.twitter.com/L3Gy4Nncax
The next tweet from Zubko-Valva claimed Valva had unlawfully kept her from seeing her children for 11 months. Zubko-Valva claimed Valva was making her two oldest children wear “diapers/pull-ups” at the age of7-years-old and 9-years-old.
I am unlawfully not allowed to see my children for the past 11 months, even though I have the right to unsupervised visitations with them. It got to the point that my 2 older children (9y, 7y) are put in diapers/pull-ups by their father.— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) November 22, 2018
In her next tweet, Zubko-Valva accused “Child Protective Services and the Court” of “protecting the abusers of my children.” Zubko-Valva said she was heartbroken because her children were being “unlawfully” kept from her by Valva.
The Child Protective Services and the Court are protecting the abusers of my children and swipe everything under the rug. I am heartbroken because my children are being purposely hidden from me, and unlawfully I am not being allowed to even see my children on Thanksgiving.— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) November 22, 2018
The last tweet from the account on November 22, 2018, reads, “I don’t even know if my children are still alive at this point.” Zubko-Valva asks for people to pray for her family and share her post to help her children receive the “justice they deserve.”
I don't even know if my children are still alive at this point.— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) November 22, 2018
Please pray for my family and share this post with everyone to go viral and help my children receive justice that they deserve.
Zubko-Valva’s account went silent until Friday when she tweeted her appreciation for the people showing “love and support towards me and my children.” In the tweet, Zubko-Valva says Thomas’s death was “preventable.”
I want to personally thank each one of you for love and support towards me and my children. I am still extremely heartbroken, and devastated over the cruel and tragic death of my little angel Thomas that could have been preventable. Please continue keeping us in your prayers🙏❤️— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) January 25, 2020
Valva Raised At Least $14,000 On Go Fund Me For Funeral Costs
Valva was a veteran police officer that made $85,292 in 2018. Following Thomas’s death, Valva launched a Go Fund Me campaign to pay for Thomas’ funeral costs. Valva set the campaign up under the name “Michael Gerad,” Gerad being his middle name. “It is with great sadness that I must bury my 8 year old son, He passed recently due to a tragic accident. At this time I am not able to handle these unforeseen costs on my own and if there is any help anyone can provide we would greatly appreciate it. In lieu of floral arrangements we ask that a donation be made instead,” Valva wrote on the campaign.
An update on the campaign from January 21, read, “Thank you for the generosity and support. Myself and Angela will be handling the money together and all the funds are going to go towards funeral expenses.” Heavy reported Valva raised at least $14,135 from 246 donors at the time of the update. The campaign has since been removed but still appears on a Google search.
Both Valva and Polina entered a not guilty plea on Friday.