'Why Can't Thomas Walk?' Inside Alleged Abuse, Death of Thomas Valva, 8, and Charges Against Cop Dad
Thomas, 8, allegedly died after longterm abuse at the hands of his father and his father's fiancée
The final days of 8-year-old Thomas Valva’s life were not only full of pain but were also recorded on home security cameras.
On the morning of Jan. 17, Thomas’s father, Michael Valva, called 911 to report that his son had fallen while waiting for his school bus outside their Long Island, New York home and was unconscious.
The boy was rushed to Long Island Community Hospital, but was pronounced dead upon arrival. Thomas’s cause of death was homicide with a major contributing factor of hypothermia.
When he arrived at the hospital, his body temperature was only 76 degrees, indicating he may have been dead for hours.
According to Suffolk County prosecutors, Thomas, who had been diagnosed with autism, died not from the fall but from alleged longterm abuse at the hands of Valva and his fiancée, Angela Pollina.
For a more in-depth look at the tragic Thomas Valva case, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
The alleged abuse did not go unnoticed by others before the child’s death.
Despite more than 17 calls made to Child Protective Services before his death, Thomas and his brothers were never removed from their father’s care, according to internal CPS records obtained by PEOPLE.
Teachers at East Moriches Elementary School, where Thomas was a third-grader, placed numerous calls to state and county CPS hotlines to report the boys’ lacerations, bruising, hunger and urine-soaked clothes.
One teacher even called to report that Thomas and his brother had been sleeping in his home’s garage — however, CPS closed the case the following day.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE’s free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
During their investigation, authorities discovered home security cameras used by Valva and Pollina to monitor their children. These cameras also recorded the final days of Thomas’s life.
One camera found in the garage was labeled “kids room” and, two nights before Thomas’s death, it recorded him and his older brother, Anthony, 10, shivering as they slept on the floor of the freezing garage.
On the day of his death, Thomas was allegedly falling over and “face-planting” on the garage’s concrete floor, prosecutors said in court.
In an audio recording from that morning, his brother can be heard asking, “Why can’t Thomas walk?”
“When you’re washed with cold water and it’s freezing, you get hypothermia,” Pollina responds, prosecutors said, citing the recording.
Later, when asked why Thomas was falling, Michael Valva allegedly says, “Because he’s cold. Boo f–king hoo.”
Thomas would be dead hours later. Valva and Pollina are charged with second-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to http://www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.