A former New York City police officer whose 8-year-old son died after he was forced to sleep in the family's freezing garage, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison Thursday.
Michael Valva, 45, was found guilty of second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in November in connection with the January 2020 death of his son Thomas Valva.
The boy's death was ruled a homicide with a major contributing factor of hypothermia, after he was forced to sleep in the family’s Long Island garage in temperatures that dipped below 20 degrees.
The egregious case led to the discovery of a history of child abuse in the home.
Valva sobbed in court Thursday and apologized for his actions, NBC New York reported. NBC News has reached out to Valva’s attorney for comment.
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney called the tragedy "one of the most difficult and heartbreaking cases I have experienced in my nearly 30 years as a prosecutor."
“Thanks to the great work of my prosecutors and the SCPD, there is a small measure of justice in Michael Valva receiving the maximum sentence. However, no prison sentence is adequate for the cruel treatment this defendant inflicted on his own children," Tierney said in a statement.
He slammed the brutal treatment of Valva's sons Thomas and his brother Anthony.
"The torture that killed Thomas and endangered Anthony’s welfare was nothing short of evil. Thankfully, the story of this defendant ends here, but the pursuit of justice for Thomas and Anthony continues," Tierney said.
Suffolk County Police responded to the Long Island home of Valva and his then-fiancée Angelina Pollina on Jan. 17, 2020 on a report that the little boy fell in the driveway and lost consciousness.
Officers found Valva performing CPR on Thomas, who was hospitalized and pronounced dead, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart previously said. The boy’s body temperature was just 76 degrees when doctors tried to revive him, Hart added.
Police soon unravelled Valva’s claim that his son had fallen and lost consciousness while trying to catch the school bus after combing through footage on the couple’s extensive home security system.
Prosecutors argued in the trial that Thomas and Anthony Valva, both of whom have autism, had spent 16 hours in that garage with no heat, or bathroom access, mattress or blankets on the freezing cold night. At one point Thomas woke up on the cement floor and soiled his pants.
Surveillance footage submitted at the trial showed Michael Valva screaming at Thomas and ordering him outside to hose him down with water. Thomas lost consciousness and fell face first several times into the backyard concrete patio and Valva delayed calling 911 for at least an hour, NBC New York reported.
Defense attorney Anthony Lapinta argued in court that Valva’s former fiancée Pollina was controlling and wanted the boys to live outside of the house, the station reported.
Pollina, 45, was also charged with second-degree murder and her trial is slated for Feb. 21, 2023.
According to Hart, the surveillance footage led investigators to learn that Valva's sons were punished with “food deprivation and exposure to extremely frigid temperatures,” according to Hart.
Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner Frances Pierre said in a statement at the time of Valva's arrest that child neglect was alleged in the household in 2018, triggering a one-year child supervision program.
Valva, who worked with the NYPD since 2005, was suspended without pay following the charges.