On the morning of January 17, a 911 call from a couple on speakerphone summoned Suffolk County police to 11 Bittersweet Lane in Center Moriches, New York, which is located on Long Island. This was the home where 40-year-old Michael Valva and his fiancee, 42-year-old Angela Pollina lived with their blended family of six children. When police arrived at 9:40 AM, they encountered Michael, a New York City police officer, performing CPR on his unresponsive eight-year-old autistic son, Thomas Justin Valva. According to Michael, while waiting for his school bus that morning, Thomas fell in the driveway and lost consciousness.
Thomas was rushed to Long Island Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His core temperature at that time was 76 degrees. The average temperature of a live human being is 98.6 degrees.
Michael’s story quickly fell apart, and investigators determined that as punishment for some real or imagined transgression, Michael and Angela had forced Thomas and his 10-year-old brother, Anthony, who was also on the autism spectrum, to spend the night in the unheated garage attached to the family home. Temperatures in Center Moriches had reached an overnight low of 19 degrees Fahrenheit.
During an autopsy, the medical examiner ruled Thomas’s death a homicide with a major contributing factor of hypothermia. According to Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, “We believe certainly that Thomas was kept in the garage overnight preceding his death.”
Allow me to veer off on a tangent right here. I want you to understand exactly what happens to the human body during hypothermia, which occurs when body temperature falls to about 95 degrees or lower. Symptoms of mild hypothermia include shivering, weakness, and confusion. The body tries to divert blood flow to the core, which means a loss of feeling in the fingers, toes, nose, and ears; confusion occurs when blood flow to the brain is reduced. Moderate hypothermia brings drowsiness, uncontrollable shivering, failing motor skills, and deeper confusion. When the condition becomes severe, the person experiences extreme fatigue. Shivering stops, and blood flow returns to the extremities as the body all but gives up on keeping the core warm, which can make the hypothermic individual feel as if his skin is on fire. Severe hypothermia leads to inadequate heart function, which in turn leads to reduced blood flow to other organs. This can put the body into a state of shock and can result in multiple organ failure.
When the body temperature reaches about 82 degrees, loss of consciousness can occur, and below 70 degrees, which is considered “profound hypothermia,” death can occur, usually due to cardiac arrest.
Now: just imagine how little Thomas and Anthony felt, banished to the garage with its bare concrete floor for the entire night as the temperature outside the unheated structure fell to 19 degrees. How much pain and fear did Thomas feel before (we can hope) his confusion became so great that he lost awareness of the gravity of his situation? After digging into this case, what Michael and Angela did to these children is truly one of the worst cases of abuse I’ve ever encountered.
Commissioner Hart told reporters, “As with any unattended death, homicide detectives conducted an investigation which revealed inconsistencies in the timing and the nature of the child’s injuries as reported by his father. 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.”
Michael and Angela told a responding EMT, who noted that Thomas was cold to the touch, that the boy had hit his head on a door jam.
However, a report to Suffolk County caseworkers from Erin Lambert, an EMT who responded to the scene, “Thomas Valva was observed with visible abrasion to his face, like ‘road rash,’ which could have resulted by being dragged across pavement.”
She described her experience at the scene. “The child was ice cold to the touch. Thomas wasn’t wearing underwear, or a shirt, and his sweat pants were pulled down to his knees.”
Michael told Erin that “Thomas hit his head on the door frame and wet his pants.” He then told her “he gave the child a shower and put him on the couch” in the basement.
According to the report, Erin confronted Michael on the spot, telling him “the explanation was inconsistent with the severity of child’s injury. Respondent then changed his story, claiming Thomas Valva fell face first onto the driveway, as he was catching the school bus.”
The report also stated that Thomas had involuntarily defecated and “had additional abrasions to his knees, elbows, and right flank.”
When Angela was questioned by detectives, she gave them the user name and password for their extensive video and audio surveillance system, through which the couple monitored all six children in their care — Michael’s three sons, Anthony (10), Thomas (8), and Andrew (6), as well as Angela’s three daughters, 11-year-old twins and their 6-year-old sister. As police began going through the videos, someone remotely changed the password and deleted some of the videos.
What they were able to attain led police to the conclusion that at least some of the children, mainly Thomas and his also autistic 10-year-old brother, Anthony, were punished using, said Commissioner Hart, “food deprivation and exposure to extremely frigid temperatures.”
She added, “We are still investigating the extent of the abuse and if it extended to all of the children.”
Prosecutors said that police were able to view surveillance video from prior to Thomas’s death, depicting him and Anthony huddled, shivering, on the garage floor with no blankets, pillows, or even a mattress shielding them from the cold concrete floor.
One of the video cameras trained on the garage was labeled “kids room,” suggesting the garage was considered the boys’ bedroom.
The five surviving children were removed from the home the same day Thomas was pronounced dead and taken to a “safe environment,” according to Commissioner Hart. We now know that all five children have been placed into the custody of their other parent.
On Friday, January 24, Michael and Angela were each hit with a charge of second-degree murder, accused of conduct that “created a grave risk of death to this child,” said Commissioner Hart.
Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini described Thomas’s death as “one of the worst crimes I’ve ever seen,” continuing, “The depravity of these defendants is shocking. They caused the death of this little boy, and then they watched him die.”
Michael, who has been with the New York Police Department for over 15 years and was most recently assigned to the NYPD’s transit bureau, has been suspended without pay pending “the outcome of the case,” said NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who remarked that the allegations against Michael are “disturbing.”
At the couple’s arraignment, prosecutors brought up audio recorded the morning of January 17 prior to the arrival of police on the scene. During this recording, a child asks, “Why can’t Thomas walk?”
“Because he’s hypothermic,” Angela responds. “When you’re washed with cold water and it’s freezing, you get hypothermia.”
(Did these monsters douse that baby with cold water before banishing him to the garage?)
Michael adds, “He keeps face planting on the concrete.”
“You know why he’s falling,” Angela replies.
Michael’s response is devoid of all empathy for his own son. “Because he’s cold. Boo-fucking-hoo.”
“What are you doing?” Angela asks.
Michael said, “I’m fucking suffocating him, that’s what I’m doing.”
“Get your hand off his mouth,” Angela snaps. “There’s people everywhere.”
The recordings indicated that Michael put Thomas, who was already unconscious, into a hot bath to try to raise his body temperature. Obviously, this was too little, too late.
“They knew he was suffering from hypothermia and they failed to get him any help,” said Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe.
“They failed to do anything to help him as he died right in front of their eyes,” said District Attorney Sini. “Not only did they fail to render any type of meaningful aid, they lied to the police officers, they lied to the EMTs.”
Court documents refer to an incident that took place two years ago. “On January 13, 2018, respondent [Michael] became enraged with Thomas Valva and made the, then, 6-year-old child lean over a table with his hands stretched out and respondent repeatedly hit Thomas on the buttocks. This caused the child significant pain and numerous bruises.” The incident reportedly caused Thomas injury to his lower back, from which he “was still in pain three days later.”
Michael and Angela have both pleaded not guilty. They are being held without bail.
“Right now [Angela] is maintaining her innocence,” Matt Tuohy, Angela’s defense attorney, told The Washington Post. “It’s going to be a long road. There’s a lot of evidence that hasn’t been brought out.”
(So, in other words, he’s singing the same old tune favored by defense lawyers since the beginning of time. I’ll reserve my amazement for the moment he reveals this fabled “evidence.”)
On Angela’s Facebook page, she lists her occupation as retired from a supervisor in credits and refunds at New-York Presbyterian Queens hospital as of July 2017.
Prior to his arrest, Michael had the colossal balls to create a GoFundMe page, where he posted,
“It is with great sadness that I must bury my 8-year-old son. He passed recently due to a tragic accident. At this time I am not able to handle these unforeseen costs on my own and if there is any help anyone can provide we would greatly appreciate it. In lieu of floral arrangements we ask that a donation be made instead. Thank you for your help and sympathy.”
This piece of shit raked in over $10,000 from more than 200 donors before the results of Thomas’s autopsy were revealed. After that report was released, however, the proverbial shit hit the fan. GoFundMe removed the page on January 24 after a massive social media outcry demanding it be taken down. Meghan Scripture of GoFundMe communications made a statement, saying, “We removed the campaign and all donors will be refunded in full. The campaign organizer has also been banned from using the GoFundMe platform for any future campaigns.”
At least it’s good to know Michael and Angela won’t be able to beg for donations to cover their defense in their yet-to-be-scheduled murder trials, huh?
Justyna Zubko-Valva, 36, who is the estranged wife of Michael Valva and the mother of the three boys, has been telling anyone who would listen for years that Michael was abusive to the children. They were married in 2004. Justyna described Michael as “extremely unpredictable” with difficulty controlling his anger. Michael filed for divorce in 2015. He was a cop who could afford an attorney. Justyna was a Polish immigrant who could not. Michael hated Justyna more than he loved his children, and it seemed he would do anything to hurt her. The deck was stacked against Justyna, especially when Michael filed false accusations of child abuse against her during the acrimonious divorce proceedings, and in 2017, she lost custody of the boys she loved so much.
Prior to Thomas’s death, Justyna had not seen her children for two years.
Justyna created a Twitter account named StandAgainstChildAbuse, which documents the tragic story of a mother trying her damndest to save her babies from the monster who helped create them.
Justyna tweeted on January 8, 2018, “Father and his girlfriend are brainwashing my special needs children and teaching them hatred towards their mommy. Parental alienation = children abuse. My children have a right to love their mommy. Taking away that right is a crime.”
Justyna posted voice recordings she made while the boys were with their father. In these recordings Michael is heard leading the boys in chants such as “I love Daddy,” “I love Angela,” “Mommy is mean,” “Mommy hits me,” and “Mommy, don’t touch me!” Michael can also be heard commanding them: “Louder!”
Please help me and my 3 children whom 2 of them have Autism receive justice because I am extremely abused and discriminated because I come from another country – Polska. Please help my story get public because my rights to defend myself and my children got taken away from me… pic.twitter.com/sakyVDN6hF— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) January 18, 2018
A female voice, evidently Angela’s, even chimes in during some of the recordings.
My son finally gave up and started to repeat taught by his father and the girlfriend hatred towards his mommy. This is extremely horrible because both of them are using the fact that my kids are easy targets to abuse because they have special needs…#specialneeds #StopAbuse pic.twitter.com/R17bakUNF0— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) January 9, 2018
On January 9, 2018, she posted a video showing then-4-year-old Andrew explaining that he was not allowed to run from his father and Angela’s car to his mother’s, and that if he did, he would be punished by being put upstairs and not given anything to eat or drink.
This video was made after I picked up my children for visitations from their father’s house. My son 4y is terrified and talks about being punished by the father and his girlfriend for coming to mommy. pic.twitter.com/SadNfZfmfv— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) January 10, 2018
On January 10, 2018, she posted a video with the caption “My children are taught enormous hatred towards me by their father, his girlfriend, and her daughters #ParentalAlienation.” From what the boys say in the video, it sounds like Angela’s then 9-year-old daughters had even jumped on the anti-Justyna bandwagon, telling the boys to push her down because “she wants you to be dead.” Those girls were clearly brainwashed, as well. Let it never be said that Angela’s daughters are not victims in this horrible situation, too.
My children are taught enormous hatred towards me by their father, his girlfriend, and her daughters #ParentalAlienation pic.twitter.com/OnZX6KcUGv— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) January 10, 2018
From January 18 of the same year, another video shows Michael dropping the boys off to visit Justyna and squeezing one of the boys’ hands so hard he squeals.
Cop father forbids the children from coming to their mommy by painfully squeezing their hands and making them cry in order to prove that children do not want to come to their mommy. The father of my kids is a cop who is allowed to abuse bis children #PoliceBrutality pic.twitter.com/dIL30Eox30— StandAgainstChildAbuse (@JustZub) January 19, 2018
If you can stomach it, visit Justyna’s Twitter account. It’s so, so awful, you guys.
Reportedly, Justyna involved multiple judges, the police, and even tried bringing her sons’ abuse to the FBI. She warned one judge that if her children remained with their father, they would die.
Nothing was done.
The boys’ school, East Moriches Elementary School, where Thomas was a second grader, was also aware of the alleged abuse. Justyna also tweeted photos of reports from the boys’ school psychologist and a special education teacher, which documented their concerns about Michael and Angela’s treatment of Thomas and Anthony.
The school psychologist’s report read, “Biggest concern is that Mr. Valva and his fiancee Angela do not understand the depth of Anthony and Thomas’s disabilities… Both Anthony and Thomas come into school hungry and frequently say they did not eat breakfast because they did not ask for breakfast or got in trouble.” It continued, “The boys were afraid to go to the nurse’s office for a while and they said it was because they were directed by Mr. Valva and Angela not to go to the nurse’s office. This occurred shortly after the school nurse became involved in a CPS case because Thomas had multiple bruises on his bottom from Dad.”
The special education teacher’s report read, “Anthony and Thomas have stated that they were not allowed to eat breakfast because they did not use their manners, say good morning to Angela or were doing nothing. They have come in crying because of this.
It goes on, including the following bullet points, among others.
- “The boys come in hungry and most days state that they have not eaten breakfast.”
- “They usually have a ½ of Nutella sandwich, 2 snacks and a water bottle. I have spoken with Dad that the boys and hungry and need more to eat during the day.”
- “I often supply them with cereal bars, chips, fruit and juice throughout the day.”
- “Both boys were coming in with visible dirt on their bodies for days in a row.”
- “Anthony has lost 11 lbs in 9 months.”
- “Thomas as gained 1 lb in 20 months.”
Charles “Chuck” Russo, East Moriches school district superintendent, said in a statement, “We continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Thomas Valva. Thomas was a tender, loving boy who made tremendous gains during the short time he was a student in East Moriches.”
He added, “While the district legally cannot comment on any specific case, it aggressively reports to the proper authorities child abuse when it is suspected.”
Now, as for CPS involvement with the family: In 2018, allegations of child neglect against Michael and Angela triggered a year-long child supervision program. According to Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner Frances Pierre, “Orders of Protection for the parents to refrain from harmful behaviors towards the children and mandated participation in a Positive Parenting Program had been put in place.”
After the expiration of the supervision program, Pierre said, “CPS investigated additional complaints” related to Michael and Angela in 2019.
As it turns out, on February 27, 2019, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services received an anonymous tip, detailed in a report later sent to Justyna that stated, “Anthony has been staying in the garage and is not allowed in his room due to him urinating in his bed.” The temperatures outside at that time were in the 30s and low 40s. The report continued, “For the past week, Anthony (9) has been coming to school with his clothes and backpack soaked in urine… Step mother (Angela) and Father (Michael) are aware that the child is arriving at school soiled and fail to adequately address the concern… The child’s feet and hands are bright red.” Along with this report, Justyna also received a letter saying, “The investigating district/agency has determined the report to be unfounded.”
Now, Suffolk County has launched an internal investigation of the Department of Social Services’ “departmental procedures and actions in this specific case,” according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “As a parent, I am horrified by what happened to this beautiful boy. As county executive, I want to know if there’s anything else that could have been done under existing law to prevent this from happening. Beyond that, I want to know if anything in this case suggests that changes should be made to existing policy or law.”
In addition, a task force will be established, according to Bellone, “to review all Child Protective Services policies and procedures as they relate to children with autism and other developmental disabilities. The task force will be charged with reviewing procedures for how services are provided to children with autism and other special challenges under current law, determine if the current system leaves children with disabilities more vulnerable, and whether additional safeguards need to be enacted.”
Suffolk County legislators are concerned, however, whether the county can conduct an independent review of its own social services department. Minority Leader Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) said that if he doesn’t receive answers quickly about the circumstances of Thomas’s death, he will demand an outside investigation.
Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Solonga) is also concerned about the independence of the probe. “Forgive me if I am somewhat skeptical that politicians and political appointees will be investigating themselves,” he said in a text message.
Justyna, a corrections officer on Rikers Island, told The New York Post, “There are so many people responsible for this tragedy. The institutions that are supposed to protect the children protect the abusers.”
The police are working with the school district, social services agencies, and the F.B.I. to put together the full picture of the past several years’ in Thomas’s life.
After Michael’s arrest, Justyna tearfully told Newsday, “Thank God, the justice is being served.”
Justyna said that Thomas “had such an amazing, good heart. Everybody who knew him, they instantly fell in love with him. He was just a joy of everybody’s life.”
She told another news station, “Thomas was this little eight-year-old boy, my baby, who was always joyful, always stands for the truth, play his cars, read books, loved songs.”
Justyna was granted temporary emergency custody of Anthony and Andrew after Thomas’s death. Gary Rosenthal, an assistant county attorney for CPS, testified on Justyna’s behalf at the emergency family court hearing, saying that past allegations Michael made against her were “dismissed and she was found to be credible.”
Suffolk Family Court Judge Frank Tantone said to Justyna during the hearing, “The children have lost one of their siblings. Therapy is critical in this case.”
Justyna told Newsday, “It shouldn’t get to the point that a child has to die for the justice to be served. So I am heartbroken that I’m only picking up my two children, instead of three of them. But I’m so thankful that they’re going to be safe tonight. I’m so thankful.”
She added that ten-year-old Anthony also suffered the effects of spending that subzero night in the garage, telling reporters that he had frostbite on his hands and his legs.
Gino Cali, who is the biological father of Angela’s 6-year-old daughter, attended the family court session on Monday, January 27, telling reporters that he knew something like this would happen. “I would watch Angela abuse the twin girls, before the boys were involved, before my daughter was even born. She would beat one of the girls, I would break it up, and then she’d threaten she was going to call the police on me,” Gino said, choking back tears.
“There’s not been one day I haven’t wanted to be in my daughter’s life,” Gino added. He was awarded custody of his daughter on Monday.
Michael Ichkhan, the father of Angela’s 11-year-old twin daughters, now has custody of his girls. “As you’re all aware,” Michael said on Facebook, “I was awarded full custody of my girls on Monday after being in court for close to 12 hours. Best part of the day is after 8 years I finally for the first time tucked them in and kissed them goodnight which was priceless.”
Neither man has seen the girls in three years.
A former nanny who worked for Michael and Angela from 2017 to 2018 has spoken out about the disparate treatment from the couple toward the boys as opposed to the girls. “It’s sad. They wanted to give the impression they were the Brady Bunch family when it was more like home crashing,” Amanda Wildman said. “There was always screaming. The boys were constantly being yelled at. There never was a day where somebody wasn’t screaming and the boys [would] just sit there quietly and take it. The girls were always treated better than the boys.”
She continued, “If [the boys] weren’t eating their food, [Angela] didn’t care if they had to pee; they had to sit there. They would get yelled at for not going to the toilet. It was very disturbing.”
Amanda said that in 2017, she spoke to a detective about the alleged abuse, but she did not file a formal complaint.
Another former nanny, Emily Gandolfo, has also gone public. “It breaks my heart to say I’m not surprised. I worked for this family and I knew how cruel they could be,” she said on Facebook. “I was hired specifically to work with Thomas and his older brother because they were on the spectrum and needed extra care.”
She went on to say, “They were kids, they messed up sometimes and because of their disability they had a hard time understanding why what they did was not good behavior. I would disagree with Angela; their behavior was not bad. They would even listen in on my conversations with the children when I would try and tell them it was going to be okay. But to lock a child in 19 degree temps overnight — I’m disgusted.”
Emily mentioned also that she used to take the kids on nature walks and hikes and give them free time to play. “They always listened to me because I made sure to treat them kindly,” she said. Regarding Thomas, she said, “That poor sweet boy did not deserve this — no matter what ‘punishment’ they thought he deserved. And the worst part is that only the two oldest boys were treated like this. The girls were always treated like angels and the youngest boy was always treated well, too. But to treat two autistic children like this?”
After Thomas’s death, Emily posted on Facebook, “I remember Thomas. I remember how shy and hesitant he was about me when we first met. I remember giving him space to allow him to warm up to me on his time. I remember the first time I made him laugh at the park by pulling out m y hula hoops and pretending they were space ships. I also remember the anger, the fear, and the emotion behind that little boy… Eight years old is too young to be taken from this earth. My heart aches today for Thomas, his brothers and his family.”
She lamented, “I know this isn’t my fault but when these things come to light I can’t help but feel there was something more I could have done… I will forever speak up for these children who don’t have a voice.”
Speech pathologist Kim Taylor, who worked with Thomas when he spoke his first words at almost three years old, gave an interview to the Daily Beast about the little boy she remembered well. “‘Ball’ and ‘go’… those were the first words with me and I believe to his mom, too. We were really thrilled with his progress… The smiles! He was so happy, he really was.”
Kim remembers Justyna as a steadfastly adoring presence in Thomas’s life, crediting the boy’s mother for his progress. “He was really, really loved,” Kim said. “She was an amazing mother; she really was. Just completely involved in their lives. Making sure they got the time they needed.”
Kim came to the family’s home twice a week as part of New York state’s Early Intervention Program (EIP) to help Thomas with his speech and language disabilities. “She was overwhelmed, but she was always trying to make sure he got everything he needed,” she said of Justyna, who also had newborn Andrew to care for, as well as then-4-year-old Anthony, who had his own disabilities. “His mom sat with me the entire session, asking questions.” She remembered other autistic children in her experience as “emotionally muted and physically standoffish,” sometimes even with their mothers, but Thomas, she said, was not like that. “He had this love for his mother. He was always hugging her, loving her. It was just a beautiful thing to see.”
Michael, Kim said, was present on a few occasions, but he stayed in another part of the house during her visits. “I didn’t have a lot of interaction with the dad. My feeling about him is that he was not really involved. He was doing his own thing.”
Justyna, however, was the opposite. “This is a mom who was extremely involved with her kids. They were very loving to her and she was to them.”
On Sunday, January 26, friends, family members, first responders, and strangers alike paid tribute to Thomas at a candlelight vigil at Kalers Pond in Center Moriches. Justyna attended with her surviving boys, 10-year-old Anthony and 6-year-old Andrew. All three spoke in remembrance of Thomas.
“I just want to express gratitude to all of you for showing up tonight to honor my little angel Thomas, for being here to support a cause too precious to my heart — to honor his life,” Justyna said to the crowd. “I’m so grateful for all the support. Words can’t describe how it touched my heart. I know I’m not alone.”
In tears, she continued, “Tonight is all about Tommy, my little baby who just loved everybody… His legacy is not going to stop. I am pledging to continue fighting for all those victims of this abusive system… There are more victims out there. My heart goes out to you, to your families, to the little, innocent babies that cannot speak for themselves.”
Andrew said, “God bless Tommy.”
“We love you all; thank you for coming,” Anthony added.
After the vigil, Justyna, her mom, and the boys visited the Center Moriches Firehouse, where Anthony and Andrew were allowed to play on the firetrucks and hang out with the firefighters and EMTs present.
The Families Civil Liberties Union New York is demanding the three judges be held accountable who, over time, had the opportunity to prevent Thomas’s murder but instead continued to rule in Michael Valva’s favor instead of giving the three boys to their loving mother. The judges in question are Hope Schwartz Zimmerman and Joseph H. Lorintz of Nassau County and Bernard Cheng of Suffolk County. “The first step to removing them from the bench is a deluge of official complaints to the NY State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which is supposed to provide oversight on judges. You can make a complaint — and a call for sanctions — through a quick and simple online process, here.”
In a post on January 25, the FCLUNY said, “NY Family court is complicit in the murder of yet another child. In February 2019, notorious Long Island Judge Hope Schwartz Zimmerman… and/or her partner judges Bernard Cheng and Joseph H. Lorintz, received evidence, via the NY Office of Children and Family Services, that a 7-year-old child, Thomas Valva, was being abused. That alleged abuse included complaints that the child was being forced to sleep in an unheated garage by Michael Valva, an NYPD police officer. Judges Zimmerman and/or Cheng and/or Lorintz ignored the complaints, and granted the cop custody of the children.” After describing Thomas’s murder, it continues, “The child’s bereft mom commented: ‘I am the mother of 3 little children (2 of the oldest have special needs) who were brutally, immediately, and without any reason taken away from me by Judge Zimmerman, who completely took away my right to defend myself and my children because I could not afford to hire a lawyer.'”
The Justice for Thomas Valva Case Discussion group on Facebook is abuzz with chatter about the judges being held accountable, as well as the boys’ law guardian throughout the custody battle, a woman named Donna McCabe.
A recent development could potentially drag this case into even darker territory, if that’s even possible. Justyna has brought to light copies of Michael’s Chase bank records, which she received during her divorce and family court cases. The bank records reveal several large deposits from unknown sources being made into Michael’s accounts as far back as 2017. Some deposits were made at ATMs. The deposits varied in amount from $19,000 to $40,000. These deposits are highly concerning, because they can’t be explained away as income from Michael’s job as a transit cop. Justyna told PIX11 that she has fears the boys were being sexually abused. In 2016, she made a complaint to Nassau County Police after the boys told her they had been “recorded naked with a black camera.”
Could the allegations of sexual abuse and the large, mysterious deposits into Michael’s bank accounts be related? Part of my brain doesn’t even want to go down that road, but if those boys were being exploited in any way, that information needs to — and will — be unearthed.
A GoFundMe campaign has been created to benefit Justyna, Anthony, and Andrew in the hopes of easing their financial burdens in the coming “days, months and years.” View the campaign or donate here.
Angela’s twins are now in the custody of their biological father, Michael Ichkhan, and his wife, Lauren. A friend has set up a GoFundMe to help the girls, who have none of their clothing or possessions, settle into their new life. The family will need to move out of their two-bedroom basement apartment, which is insufficient for the couple and now four children, and into something more feasible for a family of six in order to maintain custody of the girls. You can donate to their campaign here.
Disturbingly, it seems Angela’s twin daughters have been harrassed and threatened online. Michael made this public Facebook post on Sunday.
I find it utterly disgusting that grown human beings would harass and even make death threats toward a pair of eleven-year-old girls who were clearly brainwashed by their abusive mother and her piece of shit fiance.
Michael Ichkhan’s wife, Lauren, has posted about the harassment in the Justice For Thomas Valva Discussion Group on Facebook, asking people not to post photos of the twins (and the Ichkhans’ other children), which is why I have obscured the girls’ faces in any photos included in this post.
The Center Moriches Fire Department will accept donations on Wednesday and Thursday (January 29 and 30) for a “Community Fundraiser for the Family of Thomas Valva.”
You can view Thomas’s obituary and tribute wall, including a memorial video that had me in tears from start to finish, here.
Visitation was held today at Mangano Family Funeral Home in Deer Park, New York. HUGE, enormous thanks to Sal Mangano and Mangano Funeral Homes for donating Thomas’s funeral services to the family.
“Tommy is watching over all of us,” Justyna said as she fought back tears at the wake. “He’s an angel in heaven.”
Thomas’s funeral will be held at St. Elizabeth of Hungary RC Church in Melville, followed by his burial at Saint Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.
It’s nearly impossible to find a bright side in cases like this, but at the very least, I’m thankful Thomas’s case — like many of the cases I feature — has brought to light the desperate need for an overhaul of agencies across the country tasked with protecting our nation’s most vulnerable children. I can also hope that when we call attention to the outcome of such egregious cases of child abuse, we may in some small way prevent someone from using such vicious punishments against their own children, possibly sparing a child’s life.
It’s a small comfort, but comfort nonetheless.
Michael and Angela were indicted by a grand jury today and are expected to enter their pleas next week.
Rest in peace, Tommy. I hope you died knowing how much your mommy and your brothers loved you.
Click here for my ongoing and future coverage of Thomas’s story.
Sources: NBC News, The Washington Post, LiveScience, Wikipedia, The Long Island Press, The New York Times, Newsday, Patch, The Daily Beast, Pix11, Facebook
[…] how about a little schadenfreude to brighten your day?First, a very quick refresher: Eight-year-old Thomas Valva, a beautiful little boy with brown eyes, brown hair, and autism, was rushed to Long Island […]