‘Evil’ stepmom convicted in 8-year-old stepson’s freezing death

Posted at 8:08 PM, March 14, 2023 and last updated 8:42 PM, July 13, 2023


RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — A Long Island, New York woman who forced her stepson to sleep in the garage before he froze to death has been found guilty for her role in the boy’s death.

Angela Pollina — who admitted to jurors that she did something “evil” — was convicted of second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the January 2020 death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva, who died of hypothermia.

Michael Valva and Angela Pollina (Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office)

Pollina, 45, and her fiancé, former New York City police officer Michael Valva, forced two of Valva’s sons to sleep on the garage floor of the family’s Center Moriches home in temperatures below freezing. Thomas’ older brother Anthony, who was 10-years-old at the time, survived the ordeal.

Michael Valva, 44, was convicted last year in Thomas’ death, and is currently serving 25 years to life.

According to prosecutors, Thomas’ body temperature was nearly 76-degrees at the time of his death. A paramedic who testified at Valva’s trial told jurors that Thomas died after he entered the house from the freezing garage, stumbled and hit his head as he was attempting to get ready for school.

Thomas, who was autistic, had also suffered from a chronic kidney infection from holding his urine in, and had zero percent body fat, sunken hips, and alopecia.

Pollina and Valva had a blended family, wherein Pollina’s three daughters lived in the same house as Valva’s three sons. But this was no “Brady Bunch.” Prosecutors believed that the girls and Valva’s other son were spared from being abused, and that Thomas and Anthony were singled out because they were both on the autism spectrum.

At Pollina’s trial, a witness testified earlier this month that the defendant cursed and screamed at Thomas and mocked him for his autism.

Teachers and the principal from Thomas and Anthony’s elementary school testified at both Pollina and Valva’s trials, telling the jury that the boys often came to school covered in bruises, caked in urine, and starving. They ate crumbs off the floor and out of trash bins. Teachers said they tried to give the boys sweatshirts and other warm clothing items, but they would return them at the end of the day because they feared their stepmother’s wrath.

On the stand, Pollina confessed to deleting footage from the home’s Nest cameras to protect her fiancé. She also admitted she refused to allow Thomas and Anthony to use any of the home’s four bathrooms. Incidentally, the home was located on Bittersweet Lane.

Pollina’s defense attorney Matt Tuohy tried to convince jurors that his client never meant for Thomas to die, and therefore was not guilty of murder.

Following the verdict, Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney stated:

“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. 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.”

Pollina faces 25 years to life when she’s sentenced on April 11.