Murder trial begins of ex-cop accused of forcing son to sleep in unheated garage

Thomas Valva is remembered for his infectious smile and kind soul. 

And prosecutors on Wednesday asked the jury to remember four numbers as opening statements in the murder trial of Thomas' father — former NYPD officer Michael Valva — got underway: 

  • 8: Thomas' age when he died
  • 16: The number of hours he spent in an unheated garage leading up to his death
  • 19: The temperature outside on the day he died
  • 76.1: Thomas' internal temperature — 20 degrees lower than normal

Despite Valva's original claim that his son had fallen in the driveway back in January 2020, an autopsy revealed he died of hypothermia. Authorities said he was forced to spend the night in the unheated garage of their family's home in Suffolk County.

In court, prosecutors painted what they call a disturbing picture to the jury of eight women and four men claiming Michael Valva, 43, and his then fiancée and now codefendant Angela Pollina, 45, subjected Thomas and his older brother, who were both diagnosed with autism, to years of abuse and neglect. Prosecutors allege the two were food-deprived and denied blankets and pillows and showed up to school in soiled clothes and oftentimes with bruises.

Text messages between Valva and Pollina will be entered as evidence. One text read, "I will beat them until they bleed - it is the only thing that works," authorities said.

But Valva's defense attorney Anthony La Pinta blamed years of abuse and Thomas' death on Pollina, the "wicked cruel stepmother" who allegedly resented the boys and told Valva he was too easy on them. La Pinta said Valva was intimidated by Pollina. He also said his client he often lost his temper but never wanted Thomas to die.

"Whether it's wrong, angers you, makes you irate, the facts don't make out murder," La Pinta said. 

Close to 40 witnesses, including first responders and teachers, will be called to testify. The trial is expected to last about three weeks.

Valva faces 25 years to life in prison if found guilty on the top count.