Since I’ve been working on a soon-to-be-announced related project, the updates have been piling up. Today’s post is a compilation of news regarding the tragic case of Thomas Valva, the 8-year-old autistic Long Island boy who died of hypothermia in mid-January after his NYPD officer father and his fiancée allegedly forced Thomas and his older brother to spend the night in the family’s unheated garage when temperatures outside dipped to 19 degrees Fahrenheit.
First things first, Thomas’s two brothers, 10-year-old Anthony and 6-year-old Andrew, are doing well living with their mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, and have returned to school.
According to Gary Rosenthal, an attorney who represents Suffolk County’s Child Protective Services, said in court on February 10 that caseworkers had visited the boys twice in the previous ten days at Justyna’s home in Valley Stream and found “an abundance of food” and two “happy” boys. “The boys are doing fantastic — under the circumstances — with Mom,” Mr. Rosenthal told a family court judge at the hearing.
Over a dozen of Justyna’s supporters were in the gallery. Many wore pins with Thomas’s photo and blue ribbons, which symbolize child abuse prevention.
Immediately after Thomas’s death and Michael and Angela’s arrest, Justyna was awarded temporary custody of the two boys. The hearing on February 10 was requested by CPS and was intended to clarify how often caseworkers should visit Anthony and Andrew, which Justyna described as “an act of retaliation” against her because she blames the agency for Thomas’s death, saying prior allegations of abuse against Anthony and Thomas were not properly investigated.
“CPS is just looking for another way to have supervision over my kids… to try to falsely accuse me,” Justyna told the judge. She said that Anthony has gained six pounds since they began living with her, and that he and Andrew had returned to school. “The kids are really improving, your honor. I’m a very loving and caring mom.”
A court-appointed attorney for the boys named Ethan Halpern backed Justyna up, telling the judge that the boys are “doing well” and that Justyna had been “very cooperative.”
Justyna’s supporters in the courtroom applauded when Judge Frank Tantone ruled that there was no reason to increase CPS oversight of the family. Finally, a judge in this case who recognizes a good parent when he sees one!
Michael Valva and Angela Pollina, for their part, have been indicted on five charges each in connection with Thomas’s death: one count of second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Both were ordered held without bail.
Justyna appeared in court again on Thursday, February 13, this time staring down the two people who allegedly murdered her son. The accused murderers appeared before a family court judge on allegations they abused the other five children who lived in the home, including Michael’s two sons, Anthony and Andrew, and Angela’s three daughters, eleven-year-old twins Delana and Milana and six-year-old Gia.
Lawyers for CPS testified about how well Angela’s three daughters were doing in the custody of their biological fathers, Michael Ichkhan, the father of the twins, and Gino Cali, Gia’s father. The three girls have also returned to school. Angela did not ask for visitation with the girls during the court hearing.
During the indictment hearing the previous week, the District Attorney’s office detailed horrific abuse that left Justyna, who clutched Thomas’s prayer card, in tears. Allegedly, Michael and Angela inflicted upon Thomas and Anthony a great deal of both physical and verbal abuse, including depriving the boys of food, blankets, pillows, and clean clothing. Prosecutors said both boys sometimes showed up at school either soaked in urine or wearing diapers, because they were not permitted to use the bathroom at home. They also said that Angela texted video clips from the couple’s extensive home security network to Michael while he was at work, and that the couple exchanged text messages in which Michael called Thomas a “fucking moron” and a “stupid fucking son of a bitch” when the little boy, his own son, repeatedly fell to the concrete garage floor while experiencing hypothermia.
Evil exists, ladies and gentlemen, and Michael Valva and Angela Pollina are two of its faces.
District Attorney Keriann Kelly described the ghastly allegations against Michael and Angela at the indictment hearing. “Nothing short of cruel, callous, wanton evil. [The boys were] literally begging for food at school, eating crumbs off the table, eating out of garbage cans, going under bleachers.”
She continued, “Slapped and punched and carried by the wrist with their feet not touching the floor. Thomas was thrown and dragged down a flight of stairs.”
The prosecution alleged that while Thomas’s “ice cold body lifeless body lay on the floor” in the bathroom, Angela stood nearby, fixing her hair in the mirror. Even more chilling was their claim that after Michael was informed in the hospital of Thomas’s death, his response was, “I’ve been through more stressful things than this.”
The depth of this couple’s psychopathy is unimaginable. I’ve long wondered how creeps like this manage to find each other. Is there a dating site catering to these people?!
Both defendants plead not guilty to the charges against them. Considering the evidence against them includes both audio and video recordings of the two of them “allegedly” abusing the boys, it should be interesting to see how that works out for them.
On Saturday, February 15, a group amassed outside the Suffolk County Department of Social Services in Riverhead, New York, chanting “Justice for Thomas” and carrying signs with various related messages, including “Protect our children from abuse, not the abusers.”
Justyna was among the group, along with the organizer of the rally, Dina Marie Marrazzo of the Take Action: Justice for Thomas Facebook group, and Marie Gouldsbury, the organizer of a GoFundMe campaign benefiting Justyna.
“We are rallying to change a broken system at CPS,” said Dina. “Justyna is here, and we are here to support her. We are not going to let this be swept under the table. We are not going to stop until the system is fixed.”
“I just want this corruption of agencies to be investigated, and this not to happen to families and children,” said another attendee, Kathleen Berezny, who is a former longtime Riverhead Board of Education member and president. “It is horrific, what Thomas went through.”
At the rally, Justyna spoke exclusively with Patch.com.
“We definitely want to raise our voices in stopping the corruption — to move forward as well as make the changes necessary to make sure that other children who are victims of this system are going to receive justice, are going to be safe, are not going to be abused anymore. . .This cause truly touches my heart because the death of my son Tommy could have been preventable. There were alarms on my behalf as well as the school, that could have saved his life,” Justyna said. “So this is for you, Tommy.”
The accused murderers are next due in court on February 24. I will provide updates on the case as I receive them. My ongoing coverage of this case can be found here.
Sources: Newsday, NBC New York, CBS New York, Patch.com