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Thomas Valva case: Father Michael Valva's murder trial begins on Long Island

Trial begins for NYPD officer charged in murder of son Thomas Valva
Trial begins for NYPD officer charged in murder of son Thomas Valva 02:27

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. -- It was a case that gained national notoriety -- an NYPD officer charged in the abuse and murder of his 8-year-old child.

CBS2's Jennifer McLogan has followed the Thomas Valva story since the beginning. On Wednesday, the heart-wrenching trial began in Riverhead.

Two and a half years after the hypothermia death of Thomas Valva, who was forced to sleep in the unheated garage of his Center Moriches home, the murder trial began for his father, Michael Valva.

"How could anybody, any mother or father, leave a child in a garage at 19 degrees to sleep? I'm sorry, how could you?" neighbor Sharon Scarborough said.

Neighbors filled with emotion and anger helped pack the courtroom. There was so much tension, the judge warned any outburst would mean removal or possible arrest.

FLASHBACKThomas Valva case: New attorney calls death "tragic accident," says Michael Valva "emotionally distraught"

The eight women and four men of the jury were visibly shaken listening to wrenching details of years of punishment for Thomas and 10-year-old brother Anthony's bedwetting. Prosecutors said the children, on the autism spectrum, were denied food, access to a bathroom, arrived at school in soiled clothing, scrounged for food in trash cans, limping, bruised and shivering.

"Michael never ever thought that either of his boys could die from being in that garage," defense attorney Anthony LaPinta said.

Michael Valva's defense team argued Thomas' death was an accident and cast blame on his ex-fiance, Angela Polina, calling her a wicked, cruel stepmother. She will be tried separately.

FLASHBACKThomas Valva case: Prosecutors paint "cruel, callous, wanton evil" picture of life in father's home

Video and audio evidence from a security camera inside the home and a 911 call that prosecutors claim was a big lie will be presented.

Prosecutors said Thomas had just been sprayed with a cold hose by his father, washing off urine, saying the child was nearly naked when he fell over and lost consciousness.

"My name is Michael. I'm a police officer with the city of New York. My son, I don't know if he's breathing or not. I don't know if his heart stopped. He fell down on his way to the bus. He banged his head pretty good. I brought him in. I'm doing CPR right now," Michael Valva says on 911 audio that was presented during pretrial hearings.

"We emphatically argue that it is not murder, however emotional, however troubling," LaPinta said.

FLASHBACKThomas Valva case: CBS2 obtains abuse complaint records, custody hearing transcripts as investigation into his death continues

Michael Valva was in the midst of a contentious divorce from the boys' mother, Justina Zubko-Valva, when he moved with Polina into what was described as a house of horrors.

Thomas Valva's mother has filed a $200 million federal lawsuit against Suffolk County for "a series of failures before her son's death.

In all, 36 witnesses will be called to testify in a trial that could last one month.

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