A New York City transit officer and his fiancee are both behind bars after being charged with second-degree murder of a young boy. The couple is accused of forcing the man’s 8-year-old son, Thomas Valva, to spend the night sleeping in an unheated garage.
ABC News reports that the father, Michael Valva, 40, called 911 the next day when he found his son unconscious. Originally, he reported that the boy had fallen down in the driveway on his way to the school bus.
Paramedics were alarmed when they took the unconscious boy’s temperature and it was only 76 degrees. Thomas was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead not long after arriving. An investigation then took place to determine how the boy died from hypothermia.
On January 24, Valva and his 42-year-old fiancee, Angela Pollina, were charged with second-degree murder. They both face a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
Speaking to reporters, Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said that both Thomas and his 10-year-old brother are on the autism spectrum. According to authorities, the boys were “at times forced to sleep in the garage.”
Justyna Zubko-Valva, the biological mother of the children, claims she informed authorities on several occasions about the abuse her three children endured from her estranged husband.
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
According to Radar Online, the Valvas have been engaged in a custody battle for years. Zubko-Valva took to Twitter several times to voice concern for how her ex-husband was treating their children. She even posted video and audio she believed was evidence that Valva was abusing their children.
In her tweets from 2018, the mother says she was “unlawfully” kept from seeing her children — who lived with their father — even though she was supposed to be granted unsupervised visits.
“The Child Protective Services and the Court are protecting the abusers of my children and swipe everything under the rug,” she wrote in a 2018 tweet.
Following the father’s arrest, Zubko-Valva was given custody of her two other children. On Monday, a family court judge granted her full custody.
In a statement released to ABC News, New York’s Child Protective Services said they were “heartbroken” by the young child’s death, adding that they have launched an investigation into Suffolk County Social Services. They cannot comment on child protective services cases but are aiming “to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.”
Meanwhile, Valva — who has been a New York City officer since 2005 — has reportedly been suspended without pay.