A New York City police officer and his fiancée were arrested on Friday and charged with killing his 8-year-old son, who died after being kept overnight in an unheated garage as the temperature outside dropped to 19 degrees, the police said.
The boy died last week after police officers on Long Island responded to a call from the New York City officer, Michael Valva, who said his son had fallen in his home’s driveway while waiting for the school bus and had then lost consciousness.
When the local officers arrived, the Suffolk County police said, Officer Valva was performing CPR on his son in the basement of the house.
The boy, identified as Thomas by the police, was taken to Long Island Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, officials aid. When he arrived at the hospital, his body temperature was 76 degrees, well below normal.
“Thomas Valva was subjected to freezing temperatures in the home’s unheated garage overnight when the outside temperature was 19 degrees,” said Chief Geraldine Hart of the Suffolk County Police.
“We have determined Thomas was never in the driveway that morning and he suffered head and facial injuries that were not consistent with the father’s account,” the chief added.
The county medical examiner ruled the boy’s death a homicide and found that hypothermia was a major contributing factor, Chief Hart said.
Officer Valva, 40, was charged with second-degree murder, as was his fiancée, Angela Pollina, 42, officials said.
The police said that video and audio recordings captured by home surveillance equipment inside and outside the house, in Center Moriches, N.Y., revealed that Officer Valva and Ms. Pollina monitored their six children — his three sons, ages 6, 8 and 10, and her three daughters, 11-year-old twins and a 6- year-old — closely.
“We believe that the 10- and 8-year-old boys were subjected to punishment including food deprivation and exposure to extremely frigid temperature,” Chief Hart said. “We are still investigating the extent of the abuse and if it extended to all the children.”
The police said they had tried to conduct a welfare check at the couple’s house in May 2019 but that no one was home when officers arrived.
Thomas’s mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, told Newsday, “Thank God, the justice is being served.”
She described her son as autistic and a “loving, happy boy, always looking for adventure, loving playing outside.”
Thomas “had such an amazing good heart,” she said. “Everybody who knew him, they instantly fell in love with him. He was just a joy of everybody’s life.”
Ms. Zubko-Valva lost custody of Thomas and his two brothers and had not seen her children for two years, according to court papers.
“Unfortunately, I saw him now just looking at his body in a medical examiner’s office,” she told WCBS-AM this week. “And I do pray that one day we’re just going to meet again in heaven. I know he’s in heaven. I know he’s my angel and I’m going to miss him so much.”
Officer Valva, who joined the New York Police Department in 2005 and was most recently assigned to the transit bureau, was suspended after his arrest, the New York Police Department said.
Amanda Wildman, who said she worked as a nanny for the family for a year in 2017, described Thomas as “a very happy outgoing little boy.”
“He always had a smile on his face no matter what, even if he was getting in trouble,” Ms. Wildman said.
Angela Macropoulos contributed reporting.