The tragic death of Thomas Valva: Doc says autistic 8-yr-old had little chance after dad left him to freeze

The tragic death of Thomas Valva: Doc says autistic 8-yr-old had little chance after dad left him to freeze
Thomas Valva (R) died after his father Michael (L) forced him to sleep in a freezing garage (Suffolk County Police Department and GoFundMe)

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SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK: A doctor took the stand as a rebuttal witness on Monday, October 31, in connection with the death of Thomas Valva, 8, who was left by his father to sleep in a freezing garage. The autistic child's father, former NYPD officer Michael Valva, is on trial at the Suffolk County court in New York for murder.

Dr David Saintsing testified as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution. He said it was “reasonably likely” that Thomas suffered a heart attack which caused fatal damage, according to Crime Online. Thomas froze to death in 2020 after his father forced him to sleep in an unheated garage in Long Island. That night, temperatures had plummeted to 19 degrees. Valva’s then-fiancée, 45-year-old Angela Pollina, a co-defendant in the case, has pleaded not guilty to murder and child endangerment charges, along with Valva. Pollina's trial has yet to begin.


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Dr Ken Zafren, who testified for the defense, said that Thomas suffered a cardiac arrest on the morning of his death after the child's father put him in a warm bath. Saintsing, however, rebutted the findings. According to Newsday, Zafren said Thomas could have been “resuscitated for hours after his 10.28 am death". He added that doctors should have ideally treated the child for hypothermia immediately after he arrived at the Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue. However, Sainstring said Thomas’ chances of survival were “dismal” and that the “care staff behaved and provided care in an exemplary fashion and were beyond reproach.”

Defense lawyer Anthony LaPinta slammed Saintstring for his claims and accused him of having little experience with hypothermia. “So I think it’s very clear that this witness has very, very little, minimal experience in hypothermia,” LaPinta said. “It was just so abundantly clear from cross-examination and hence, I don’t think any of the conclusions he’s reached regarding hypothermia should be given much weight at all.”

According to prosecutors, Thomas and his brother Anthony, 10, were forced to sleep in a freezing garage, and on the morning of the boy's tragic death, the defendant hosed Thomas down with a water hose outside. Both Thomas and Anthony reportedly suffered years of abuse at their father's hand. They would often appear at school with bruises. “They were observed at school literally eating crumbs off the floor,” assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Laura Newcombe said of how they would arrive at school hungry.

Valva's attorney blamed Pollina, claiming she kept telling Valva he was being too lenient with the boys, and the dad was apparently trying to make things work. “You are making it too comfortable for them,” she allegedly told Valva, according to attorney Anthony La Pinta. “Let them be uncomfortable. That will teach them to control themselves.” La Pinta said during his opening statement that Valva “never ever thought that either of his boys could die from being in that garage,” WCBS reported.

Paramedic Erin Lambert previously testified that when Valva came to see his son at the hospital, he showed no emotion. “There were no tears. There was no emotion,” Lambert said. “Somebody, a staff member came into the room and asked him if he needed a drink, a chair, to make a phone call. He turned and said, ‘No, I’ve been in more stressful situations.’”

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