The stepmother of an 8-year-old boy who froze to death in a Long Island garage was convicted Friday of second-degree murder just months after the child’s father was sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Jurors in Suffolk County needed only six hours of deliberations to find Angela Pollina guilty of all the charges she faced in connection with the child abuse death of young Thomas Valva, the son of an ex-NYPD officer.
Thomas died of hypothermia after he and his autistic brother were forced in subfreezing temperatures to sleep on the floor of their home’s garage in Center Moriches.
Pollina, also a former NYPD officer, was found guilty on the murder charge as well as four misdemeanor counts of child endangerment. At a hearing scheduled for April, she faces a possible sentence of 25 years to life.
Thomas’ father, Michael Valva, was convicted last year on the same charges and is now serving 25 years to life in prison.
Suffolk prosecutors said home video surveillance showed Thomas and his older brother Anthony shivering inside the bitterly cold garage two nights before the younger boy’s death, when the temperature dropped to a bone-chilling 19 degrees.
Thomas died on Jan. 17, 2020. His body temperature was 76.1 degrees when he arrived at Long Island Community Hospital, more than 20 degrees lower than normal.
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“The cruelty that Thomas and his brother had to endure because of this defendant’s callous and selfish conduct is abhorrent, and, thankfully, the jury clearly agreed,” District Attorney Raymond Tierney said in a statement.
“Her treatment of these children was nothing short of pure evil. This defendant will now face the consequences of her actions and will experience her own imprisonment just as she forced these boys to live imprisoned in a freezing garage. Unlike Thomas and his brother, Pollina deserves this punishment.”
For months leading up to Thomas’ death, Pollina and the boy’s father exchanged text messages that showed Pollina’s insistence that the boys sleep in the garage and not be allowed to use the bathrooms inside.
Surveillance video also showed that she watched Thomas being hosed down in the backyard with cold water, and reprimanded the boy’s father for yelling because the neighbors might hear. Two hours later, Thomas was pronounced dead due to hypothermia.
Prosecutors said Pollina fabricated a story that Thomas was running for the bus when he fell and hit his head.
Pollina, who took the stand in her own defense, admitted that the way she disciplined the boys was “evil,” but claimed it was the boys’ father who caused Thomas’ death.
Officials said Thomas and his 10-year-old brother were both special-needs students who were so badly neglected that their school administrators said they would arrive for class in soiled clothing and dig through the garbage for food.