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Officer found guilty of murder after 8-year-old son with autism froze to death

Officer found guilty of murder after 8-year-old son with autism froze to death (Suffolk County Sheriff's Office)
Officer found guilty of murder after 8-year-old son with autism froze to death (Suffolk County Sheriff's Office)
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SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY (WKRC) - An ex-NYPD officer has been convicted in the death of his eight-year-old son, who had autism.

A jury unanimously found 43-year-old Michael Valva guilty of second-degree murder and child endangerment Friday.

Valva's attorney, John LoTurco, had apparently tried to get the judge to reduce the charges to criminal negligence and homicide.

LoTurco argued that Valva's then-fiancée, 45-year-old Angela Pollina, was really at fault, and that Valva tried to save his son's life.

"It was clear from all of the evidence, substantial evidence, that she was the dictator of discipline in that household, that she controlled not only Michael, but she also had a lover in that household that lived with her," he reportedly said in court.

The former officer's son, Thomas, died in January of 2020 after being forced, along with his brother, to sleep in a garage during 19-degree weather.

Prosecutors say the boys were locked in there for about 16 hours before the hypothermia set in. When he arrived at the hospital, Thomas' body temperature was reported to be only 76 degrees.

Valva initially tried to pass the death off as an accident, saying Thomas fell while trying to catch up with the school bus.

Defense attorneys reportedly argued that testimony and text conversations between Valva and Pollina made it clear that she hated Thomas and his 10-year-old brother, Anthony, because they were both on the autism spectrum and suffered from incontinence.

Pollina allegedly had the idea to make the boys sleep in the garage when they had bathroom accidents, and the couple had apparently done so several times before.

After one accident, she texted Valva, "I'll beat them up again. Talking don't work. Maybe a bloody face will."

Surveillance video from the couple's home from the morning of Thomas' death also shows them spraying the boys with a hose in the backyard.

"He's cold. Boo-f*****g-hoo," Pollina reportedly says after Thomas falls.

At the time, Valva had custody of both boys and another son, who was six years old. Pollina has three daughters. The youngest was six, and her two twins were 11.

Pollina was also charged with second-degree murder and child endangerment, and has pleaded not guilty. Her trial date has not been set.

Valva will be sentenced on December 8. He faces up to 25 years to life in prison.

“This guilty verdict will not bring back eight-year-old Thomas, who suffered immense cruelty at the hands of his father, the same person who was entrusted to protect, provide, and unconditionally love Thomas and his older brother, Anthony," said Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney. "This case is heartbreaking, and it has been one of the toughest child abuse trials for our prosecutors, court personnel, and jurors. No child should ever have to endure such evil acts.”

LoTurco says they "respect the jurors' decision," but plan to file an appeal, and a motion to vacate the verdict on the second-degree murder charge.

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"We are disappointed but understand the jury's verdict. This case was heartbreaking and tragic and was a tsunami of emotions," he said. "The competing narratives between our defense that our client deeply loved his son, Thomas, despite his obvious parental deficiencies, versus the prosecution's portrayal that Michael Valva was a highly abusive and depravedly indifferent father, created a dramatic backdrop to the seven-week trial."

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