Thomas Valva died last week after being made to spend the night in a freezing garage
The grieving mother of the autistic eight-year-old boy who died of hypothermia after he was ‘starved, beaten and forced into a freezing garage overnight’ by his NYPD police officer father was seen fighting back tears at her son’s wake on Wednesday.
Justyna Zubko-Valva arrived at the gathering held for little Thomas Valva in Long Island, New York, hand in hand with her two surviving sons – and Thomas’ brothers – six-year-old Andrew and 10-year-old Anthony.
Zubko-Valva, dressed in black, fought back tears as she spoke to media inside Mangano Funeral Home in Deer Park, on the same day that his father Michael Valva and his fiancée Angela Pollina were indicted for the boy’s murder.
‘This could have been preventable,’ said Zubko-Valva, according to Newsday.
‘But the people who protect children were protecting the abuser instead.’
The heartbroken mother said mourners attending the wake wanted justice for Thomas who died after social services repeatedly ignored reports that the child and his siblings were being abused by the suspected killers.
She was awarded temporary custody of Andrew and Anthony on Monday.
‘His life is never going to be forgotten,’ she said.
‘His story has affected so many people. People want to fight for justice. They want to make sure another child does not experience what Tommy did.’
Photos taken inside the wake show pictures of Thomas smiling and a tapestry with the young boy’s face set against a backdrop of a blue sky and teddy bears.
Justyna Zubko-Valva (above) fought back tears as she spoke to media inside Mangano Funeral Home in Deer Park
Zubko-Valva arrived at the gathering held for little Thomas Valva (pictured on a memorial tapestry inside the wake) in Long Island, New York, with her two surviving sons – and Thomas’ brothers – six-year-old Andrew and 10-year-old Anthony
Memorial cards had Thomas’ photo on and read ‘Safely home’
A poem on the tapestry reads: ‘When tomorrow starts without me do not think we are apart. For every time you think of me, remember I am right here in your heart.’
A giant teddy bear dressed in a Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association uniform is also on display among a spread of flowers and gifts from the heartbroken community for the young boy’s family.
Memorial cards had Thomas’ photo on and read ‘Safely home’.
Hundreds of mourners packed into the funeral home to pay their respects to Thomas and offer support to his distraught mother.
The wake took place Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9:30 p.m., ahead of Thomas’ funeral mass at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church in Melville.
Valva and Pollina were indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury Wednesday for the alleged murder of Thomas.
Pollina’s lawyer told The Post that neither of the accused appeared in court when the indictment was handed.
‘This could have been preventable,’ said Zubko-Valva, according to Newsday. ‘But the people who protect children were protecting the abuser instead’
A giant teddy bear dressed in a Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association uniform is also on display in the wake
Mourners left a spread of flowers and gifts for the young boy’s family
Thomas’ heartbroken mother said mourners attending the wake wanted justice for Thomas who died after social services repeatedly ignored reports that the child and his siblings were being abused by the suspected killers
The funeral home where Thomas’ mother said of her son: ‘His life is never going to be forgotten. His story has affected so many people. People want to fight for justice. They want to make sure another child does not experience what Tommy did’
Thomas died on January 17 after allegedly being forced to sleep in the freezing garage of Long Island home he lived in with Valva, Pollina, Andrew, Anthony and Pollina’s 11-year-old twin daughters and her six-year-old son.
Authorities were dispatched to the home around 9.40am following reports that Thomas had fallen in the driveway and lost consciousness.
Responding officers found Valva performing CPR on Thomas in the basement before he was rushed to Long Island Community Hospital and pronounced dead.
Valva’s initial story – that Thomas was trying to catch the school bus and died after falling in the driveway – quickly came apart as homicide detectives investigated the death.
‘The medical examiner has ruled it a homicide with a major contributing factor of hypothermia. We believe certainly that Thomas was kept in the garage overnight preceding his death,’ Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said, according to NBC News.
The incident started when Valva beat Thomas at their Bittersweet Lane home in the Center Moriches hamlet in Long Island, New York Daily News reports.
Thomas’ (pictured) body temperature was just 76 degrees – 21 degrees below a normal temperature – when doctors attempted to revive him the night he died
Thomas (pictured) also suffered head and face injuries that were not consistent with his father’s story
Then, Valva forced Thomas outside into the garage when the area was a frigid 19 degrees that night.
Thomas’ body temperature was just 76 degrees – 21 degrees below a normal temperature – when doctors later attempted to revive him.
Before calling 911, Valva is said to have placed the boy’s cold body in a warm bath to raise his core temperature.
In addition to hypothermia, Thomas also suffered head and face injuries that were not consistent with Valva’s story.
Social services are now under investigation after it emerged that teachers and the boy’s mother had reported her sons were being abused by their father for years.
Thomas was taken away from his mother, who is a Rikers Island correctional guard , when she and his father divorced.
It is not clear why Zubko-Valva lost custody but she has suggested it is because she is a Polish migrant and was on the back-foot during their custody case because she did not have a lawyer.
She also alleged that her ex falsely accused her of abuse.
Michael Valva (left) and Angela Pollina (right) were indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury Wednesday for the alleged murder of Thomas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said on Monday he would launch an investigation into how her complaints were handled.
‘As a parent, I am horrified by what happened to this beautiful boy.
‘As county executive, I want to know if there is anything else that could have been done under existing law to prevent this from happening.
‘Beyond that, I want to know if anything in this case suggests that changes should be made to existing policy or law,’ he said.
After news of her son’s death emerged last week, Justyna wrote on Twitter: ‘I want to personally thank each one of you for love and support towards me and my children.
‘I am still extremely heartbroken, and devastated over the cruel and tragic death of my little angel Thomas that could have been preventable.
‘Please continue keeping us in your prayers.’
Since 2018, she has been publicly accusing Valva of abusing their boys on a Twitter page where she showed videos of them telling her they had been told to hate her.
The videos also showed the boys saying they were scared they were going to be put ‘outside’ by their father.
Records show that New York state’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) received a complaint back in February that Anthony was coming to school in soiled clothes after being forced to sleep in the garage.
They show that a phone call was made to child services, by an unnamed caller, on February 27 stating that the boy, 10 at the time, was forced to sleep in the garage because he was wetting the bed.
‘For the past week, Anthony (9) has been coming to school with his clothes and backpack soaked in urine,’ states the record, seen by The Post.
Thomas’ mother Justyna had regularly reported her concerns to child services but her son was allowed to carry on living with his father
Teachers also reported their concerns to Justyna.
They claimed in letters to her that the boys showed up at school hungry, dirty and sometimes in urine-soaked clothes.
Justyna reported her concerns but nothing was done to take the boys away from their father.
Her last tweet before that was in November 2018, when she wrote ominously: ‘I don’t even know if my children are alive at this point.’
According to police, cameras and microphones that had been set up in Valva’s home captured audio of him and Pollina taunting Thomas as he froze to death.
They sniggered ‘he’s hypothermic’ and laughed when he ‘face-planted’ the floor.
Pollina remarked: ‘You know why he’s falling?’ to which Valva replied: ‘Because he’s cold…. boo f*****g hoo’.
An investigation has been launched into the response of child services.
The suspected killers, Valva and Pollina, will be arraigned next week, where the charges against them will be announced.
Thomas was one of six children in Mike and Angela’s care who were living at the home
Letters from school psychologists and teachers paint a worrying picture of the boys’ life
Another teacher wrote a letter laying out her concerns for Thomas and his brother