A new report from Eyewitness News has cast doubt on my pieced-together account of the process by which Justyna Zubko-Valva lost custody of Thomas and her other sons. My initial account, relying on reports from other media outlets, suggested that a judge revoked the mother’s custody and gave it to the father in an arbitrary manner without seeking to evaluate either parent’s capability of raising the children. Based on the documents described by Eyewitness News, ot appears that this was not the case. I have updated my post to account for the new information, as described below.
My post initially relied on available media accounts in stating that Judge Hope Schwartz Zimmerman became fed up with Justyna Zubko-Valva for failing to follow two orders, including one to get her children evaluated. In fact, the court documents obtained by Eyewitness News state that the Zubko-Valva was refusing to follow an order that she herself be evaluated, unless the interview could be videotaped. The evaluator refused due to the “sensitive nature of the testing materials.”
Without a psychological evaluation of the mother, Judge Zimmerman stated that she was unable to bring the case to trial. She announced that she was awarding “temporary, temporary” custody to the father. The rationale for that decision is not explained in the quotes from Eyewitness News. Perhaps Judge Zimmerman thought that moving the children would induce Zubko-Valva to obtain the evaluation. Using the children as tools to induce parental compliance would be inappropriate in any case. In this case, the transfer of custody not only failed to achieve the judge’s goal but resulted in the death of one child, horrific abuse of another child, and potential lifelong damage to the two living children. The “temporary, temporary custody” ended up lasting for two years after Valva filed an abuse report against Zubko-Valva and Zubko-Valva later refused supervised visitation, as described below. Nevertheless, my statement the judge cavalierly transferred custody of the boys without evaluating the parents appears to have been wrong. Instead, she apparently transferred custody in order to obtain the evaluation she required
Of course Zubko-Valva could not know that her intransigence about the evaluation would lead to suffering, death and lifelong damage to her children. But there are other disturbing aspects of her behavior cited in the Eyewitness News account. It appears that she did not see her children for two years, from January 2018 until Thomas’ death in January 2020. Eyewitness News stated that visits were cut off in January 2018 due to the abuse accusations against Ms. Zubko-Valva but that another judge, Joseph Lorintz, offered her visits starting in April 2018, when the charges were dismissed. Zubko-Valva reportedly refused to visit the children unless they were moved from Valva’s home–a request which the judge denied. In July 2019 the judge again offered her visits, but said the visits must be supervised because “I’m not going to allow you to see your children after a year and a half without some form of supervision in place.” Eyewitness News reports that Zubko-Valva refused to visit her children in a supervised setting. She reportedly refused the same offer in September, 2019, only four months before Thomas’ death. According to the transcripts cited by Eyewitness News, Judge Lorintz almost pleaded with Zubko-Valva, saying “You haven’t seen your children since January 14, 2018. It may only be a few times, but I need for them to be reintroduced to you.” The transcripts show the judge offering three more times to order visits, without receiving an answer from Zubko-Valva. She would never never again see her son Thomas alive. By refusing the opportunity to see her children, did she miss the chance to save Thomas? We will never know.
Unless the Eyewitness News account of the court transcripts is terribly wrong, it appears that Zubko-Valva was not acting in the best interests of her children when she refused the evaluation and the visits. Her refusal to visit her children is very hard to understand and very concerning as it relates to her current fitness as a parent to her two very damaged young sons. The courts and CPS have already failed these children catastrophically; it is hoped that their continued involvement will serve to protect these children and ensure that they receive the treatment and monitoring they need.
The difficulty of piecing events together based on incomplete press accounts illustrates the need for an independent children’s ombudsman to review such cases of systemic failure and release their reviews (redacted as necessary) to the public. Only with such independent reviews can taxpayers understand how and why the system they paid for has failed. If I knew that such a review was forthcoming, I would not have even tried to come up with a credible narrative of this case without the court transcripts and CPS documents. The public should not have to rely on guesswork to find out how the system failed and what has to change.
3 thoughts on “The Murder of Thomas Valva: Corrections to my earlier post”
I find these comments about Zubko-Valva‘s “intransigence”, i.e. her refusal to agree to a psychological evaluation without it being videotaped, to be, frankly, baffling and showing a shocking lack of understanding about how family courts work and how corrupt they can be, particularly coming from a blog about child protection.
First, a judge ordering an evaluation of one parent but not the other, is extremely inappropriate and should never have happened.
Second, like others “professionals” in the family court system, evaluators can be very biased. With Zubko-Valva being the only one referred for evaluation, the evaluation is clearly a witch hunt and I absolutely agree with her insistence that it be videotaped. She was doing that to protect her kids because if she is railroaded in the evaluation, it would have been infinitely harder to fight that label, and she would have ended up with the same results. She was truly in a dammed if you do or damned if you don’t position.
In my court custody case, for example, the evaluator administered several tests. From the tests results, he concluded that I was histrionic, and my ex was “normal”, despite significant evidence to the contrary. I talked to my therapist who was shocked and said no-you are not histrionic. I asked the evaluator to send a copy of his case notes and the results/scoring/analysis of the tests he administered, which I am legally entitled to receive. He refused to send them for more than a year until I threatened legal action. It turns out that he didn’t take notes, which my therapist said is malpractice, and he didn’t computer score several tests, which is also malpractice. My therapist computer scored the tests I took and the results showed nothing of note, and no indication of histrionic whatsoever. Shortly after my experience with this evaluator, he actually did diagnose a parent in a custody case with several serious mental health conditions, but still recommended that the parent have unsupervised visitation in spite of the other parent’s pleas and compelling evidence that the children were not safe with the mentally ill parent. The judge agreed with the evaluator and gave the ill parent unsupervised visitation, and that parent promptly murdered all three of their young children.
Also, many of the judges, evaluators and GAL’s know each other and travel in the same professional circles. The judge selects or approves the evaluator, so often evaluators don’t want to provide a finding that goes against what the judge wants it to show.
Any implication or speculation that Zubko-Valva‘s refusal to agree to an evaluation (unless it was videotaped) contributed to her losing custody is nauseating.
Thanks for the clarification.