(SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y.) – Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney today announced Angela Pollina, 45, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison after a jury found her guilty last month of Murder in the Second Degree and other related charges, for her role in the death of her stepson, 8-year-old Thomas Valva, who died of hypothermia in 2020 after Thomas and his 10-year-old brother were forced to sleep in an unheated car garage in below-freezing temperatures.
“This case and the trials that ensued were not only heartbreaking, but they were also infuriating,” said District Attorney Tierney. “As I’ve said before, while the story of these two defendants ends here, the pursuit of justice for Thomas and Anthony is not over.”
The evidence at trial established that Pollina consciously disregarded the wellbeing of her stepsons Thomas and Anthony, and that disregard led to Thomas’ death on the morning of January 17, 2020.
For months leading up to Thomas’ death, text messages were exchanged between Pollina and her fiancé Michael Valva, 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.
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 since returning from school and spent the night there with no heat, no bathroom access, no mattress, and no 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.
On March 10, 2023, Pollina was convicted after a jury trial heard before Supreme Court Justice, the Honorable Timothy P. Mazzei, for the crimes of Murder in the Second Degree, a Class A felony, and four counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a Class A misdemeanor. On April 11, 2023, Pollina was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. She was represented by Matthew Touhy, Esq.
On November 4, 2022, Pollina’s co-defendant and former fiancé Michael Valva, was found guilty of Murder in the Second Degree, a Class A felony, and four counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a Class A misdemeanor. He is now serving 25 years to life in prison.
Criminal complaints and indictments are merely accusatory instruments.
Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. No one is above the law.
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