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Mother of autistic boy who froze when his father made him sleep in garage can sue CPS for $200M

The mother of an autistic boy who froze to death when his NYPD father let him sleep on a garage floor has been given the go-ahead to sue child protection services and school officials for $200 million, a judge has ruled.

Justyna Zubko-Valva claims she warned child services and her son’s school administrators that eight-year-old Thomas was being abused by his father.

Her fears came true on January 17, 2020, when Thomas froze to death after his father, Michael Valva, locked him in an icy garage as punishment. Valva’s girlfriend, Angela Pollina, is said to have participated in the abuse.

Last week, a court in New York’s Eastern District filed Zubko-Valva’s lawsuit against numerous CPS officials for willful indifference, school officials from the East Moriches Union Free School District for wrongful death claims and several malpractice attorneys.

Valva and Pollina were charged with second-degree manslaughter and are currently awaiting trial. The case was greatly delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michael Valva, the boy's father

Angela Pollina, Valva's girlfriend

Michael Valva (left) and Angela Pollina (right), were charged with first degree murder after Valva’s son Thomas was frozen to death after being locked in his garage

Justyna Zubko-Valva holds up a photo of her son Thomas, 8. She is suing child protection and Thomas' school for his death

Justyna Zubko-Valva holds up a photo of her son Thomas, 8. She is suing child protection and Thomas’ school for his death

‘Forcing Tommy and Anthony’ [his brother] sleeping in sub-zero temperatures on a cold concrete slab in the garage was so commonplace in Mr. Valva and Mrs. Pollina’s household that they called the garage the “nursery room,” U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman wrote in a ruling from 37 pages.

“While the barbaric acts of Mr. Valva and Ms. Pollina are directly responsible for Tommy’s death, there is an institutional actor almost as guilty,” Korman said.

Zubko-Valva claims she provided Thomas’s school with evidence of two years of alleged abuse by his father, ranging from audio recordings, photographs and medical records.

‘Mrs. Valva was so concerned about the children that she emailed the school’s principal that the children were “in enormous danger of being killed by Michael Valva and Pollina,” the ruling reads. In January 2018, Ms Valva claimed that ‘the school defendants saw clear, irrefutable evidence that Tommy had been physically beaten and abused by Valva, with severe bruising to his lower back and buttocks’.

Thomas Valva, 8, who was autistic, died when his father locked him in his home's garage in January 2020

Thomas Valva, 8, who was autistic, died when his father locked him in his home’s garage in January 2020

Zubko-Valva and her son Thomas before his death.  Thomas' father got custody of Thomas in 2017

Zubko-Valva and her son Thomas before his death. Thomas’ father got custody of Thomas in 2017

Valva was given custody of his two sons – both autistic – in 2017, but Zubko-Valva claims Thomas’s school did not address her allegations of abuse for a year after that.

She claims she gave CPS a flash drive containing 320 files of evidence of abuse, including transcripts of Valva teaching his sons to repeat “Mommy is mean,” “I don’t want to stay with Mom,” “I don’t like Mom.”

Zubko-Valva said Valva told CPS that she was the abusive parent, that she beat and poisoned the children with “brown medicine.”

Michael Valva arrives in court in March 2020, after his son froze to death in his garage in January of that year

Michael Valva arrives in court in March 2020, after his son froze to death in his garage in January of that year

Angela Pollina, girlfriend of Michael Valva, will appear in court in March 2020.  She allegedly participated in the abuse of Thomas

Angela Pollina, girlfriend of Michael Valva, will appear in court in March 2020. She allegedly participated in the abuse of Thomas

She accused CPS of lying about their findings and fabricating evidence to support the father’s allegations.

Thomas’ mother said CPS found he looked “starved” but they closed their investigation into Valva 10 days before their son died.

The list of defendants charged by Zubko-Valva is long and includes Suffolk County CPS senior caseworker Michele Clark, CPS supervisor Edward Heepe, East Moriches School principal Edward Schneyer and school superintendent Charles Russon.

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