The former girlfriend of the father of an 8-year-old boy who died after being forced to live in the garage of a New York home amid freezing temperatures has been convicted of murder after a jury trial.
On Friday afternoon, March 10, a jury found Long Island resident Angela Pollina, age 45, of Center Moriches, guilty of second-degree murder and other related charges, for her role in the death of Thomas Valva, who died of hypothermia in 2020 after Thomas and his 10-year-old brother Anthony were forced to sleep in an unheated car garage in below-freezing temperatures.
For months leading up to Thomas’ death on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, text messages were exchanged between Pollina and her fiancé, Michael Valva, age 45, the boys’ father, which showed Pollina’s insistence that the boys sleep in the garage of their Center Moriches home and not be allowed to use the bathrooms inside.
Michael Valva, age 43, a former NYPD officer, was found guilty of second-degree murder and four counts of child endangerment on Friday, Nov. 4.
- Earlier report: Michael Valva Convicted In Death Of Son Forced To Stay In Freezing Garage In Center Moriches
In the Pollina prosecution, according to evidence presented in court by the office of Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney:
At Pollina’s insistence, Thomas and Anthony were forced to sleep in the garage without blankets for months prior to the incident.
The night before Thomas died, he and his brother had been in the garage for 16 hours after returning from school and spent the night there with no heat, bathroom access, mattress, or blankets while in 19-degree weather.
Because he was freezing to death, the next morning, Thomas had an accident and soiled his pants.
Evidence submitted from a home surveillance camera captured Pollina sitting in the kitchen doing her bills, well aware of Thomas’s condition and doing nothing to help care for him.
When one of the other children asked why Thomas couldn’t walk, Pollina replied, “Cause he’s hypothermic, hypothermic means you’re freezing, washing yourself in cold water when it’s freezing outside, you get hypothermic.”
The surveillance video also showed she watched Thomas being hosed down in the backyard with cold water and took the time to reprimand his father for yelling because the neighbors might hear.
Two hours later, Thomas was pronounced dead due to hypothermia.
According to his testimony at the trial, Homicide Detective Norberto Flores of the Suffolk County Police Department responded to the hospital, and when he asked, “What happened?” Pollina fabricated a story that Thomas was running for the bus when he fell and hit his head.
Thomas and Anthony were living at the home with Pollina, Valva, a third brother, and Pollina’s three daughters since 2017.
School employees of the East Moriches School District where Thomas and Anthony were enrolled, testified at trial that Thomas and Anthony appeared thin, ate food off the floor, took food from other children, and pulled half-eaten food from the garbage.
In addition, witnesses testified they would arrive at the school so soiled, that school employees could smell urine and feces on them.
During the defense case, Pollina took the stand and admitted she deleted footage taken from the home’s surveillance camera and that she did not realize that exiling the brothers to the freezing garage for months was wrong until after Thomas was pronounced dead at the hospital.
She admitted that the way she disciplined the boys was “evil,” but claimed it was the boys’ father who caused Thomas’ death.
Pollina was convicted of the following:
- Second-degree murder, a Class A felony,
- Four counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a Class A misdemeanor.
She is due back in court on Tuesday, April 11, for sentencing, and faces 25 years to life in prison.
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