Bellevue police say they suspect a crime in the disappearance of a 2-year-old Sky Elijah Metalwala, whose mother claimed he disappeared after she left him alone in a disabled car for an hour on Sunday.
It’s been two weeks since anyone other than his mother has seen the 2-year-old boy who reportedly disappeared from his mother’s car in Bellevue on Sunday.
“We have been talking to relatives, friends and neighbors and no one, other than the mother, has seen him,” said Bellevue police spokesman Seth Tyler said.
The person who reported seeing Sky Metalwala about two weeks before Sunday was one of the mother’s Redmond neighbors. Police said the boy’s father has not seen his two children for several months.
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Tyler also said police were unable to get useful information from an interview with the missing boy’s 4-year-old sister.
Police also said Sky’s mother, Julia Biryukova, has declined to take a lie-detector test.
Bellevue police say they suspect a crime in Sky’s disappearance.
“It’s now going on two days, and no one has admitted seeing or hearing from Sky,” said Tyler. “But someone knows where he is, and we are currently looking for that person and for Sky.”
But police spokeswoman Carla Iafrate emphasized that investigators have no suspects, and Officer Seth Tyler said no evidence has emerged to contradict the mother’s story.
” ‘Foul play’ basically means someone knows where Sky is,” Tyler said.
During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Iafrate said police are providing housing for Biryukova because the search of her Redmond home is ongoing. She said the search is focused in the area of the home.
She characterized the investigation as “very convoluted.”
A woman who answered the phone at the office of Biryukova’s attorney, Veronica Freitas, said she would not be returning any media calls.
The boy’s father, Solomon Metalwala, agreed to take a polygraph test on Monday night, according to his attorney, Leslie Clay Terry III. However, Metalwala was sent home after his polygraph test was inconclusive.
“He was so emotionally drained and tired that the police said any result would be inconclusive. They said, ‘Go home and get some sleep and come back tomorrow,’ ” Terry said.
He said police have not yet scheduled a time for Metalwala to retake the test.
Bellevue police said Monday Biryukova had consented to the search of her car and her Redmond home.
Sky’s disappearance came only four days after his parents engaged in 11 hours of mediation aimed at ending a bitter divorce in a compromise that awarded custody of the couple’s two young children to their mother but allowed visits with their father.
Mother said she left boy alone
Biryukova said Sky disappeared after she left him alone in her unlocked car in Bellevue on Sunday morning after she ran out of gas.
According to police, Biryukova said she walked with her 4-year-old daughter to a Chevron station about a mile away. She called a friend who picked her up before she returned to her car.
When they arrived at the silver Acura Integra more than an hour later, Sky was gone, police said.
Police said there was no sign of forced entry into the car, nor was there a gas can or any indication of car trouble. Police said the car started right up.
Bellevue Police Maj. Mike Johnson told reporters. “Nothing about the story adds up. Something else happened.”
However, Iafrate, the police spokeswoman, said during Tuesday’s news conference they have not determined whether the car did run out of gas.
An extensive search of the area near the 2600 block of 112th Avenue Northeast, where the car had been parked, was suspended Sunday evening. Police resumed the search Monday morning in the area surrounding Biryukova’s Redmond home, according to Bellevue police. The FBI also joined the search.
Metalwala, the boy’s father, said police also searched his Kirkland home.
“No arrests have been made at this time,” Officer Carla Iafrate, spokeswoman for the Bellevue Police Department, said Monday. “All possibilities of what may have happened to the child are being investigated.”
She said there are still “many unanswered questions.”
Investigators are asking anyone who may have traveled along 112th Avenue Northeast, between Highway 520 and Northeast 24th Avenue Northeast, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday, to call Bellevue police at 425-577-5656.
The couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Maile Metalwala, has been taken into protective custody and placed in foster care, according to a spokeswoman for the state’s Child Protective Services.
Efforts to reach Biryukova, 30, and her attorney on Monday were unsuccessful. Her younger brother, Stanley Biryukova, said she was crying frantically when she called him Sunday afternoon and explained what had happened.
“I’m hoping they’ll find the child,” he said.
Child left unattended before
It wasn’t the first time Sky had been left unattended in a car, according to court documents.
The child’s parents were charged with reckless endangerment in 2009 after leaving Sky, then 3 months old, in their car while they shopped at a Target store on a 27-degree day. Paged inside the store, the couple said they had left the baby in the car for about 20 minutes because they didn’t want to wake him up, but surveillance video showed it was closer to an hour.
Both took parenting classes and completed community service before the case was dismissed in February of this year, court documents show.
Metalwala, 36, said Monday that the incident was a learning experience.
“I really made a mistake,” he said during a news conference at his attorney’s Bellevue office. “And I learned a very valuable lesson.”
Metalwala’s family is from Pakistan, and Biryukova, who is Ukrainian, immigrated with her family from Russia when she was 12, court records say.
The two met at Bellevue High School when Biryukova was 15 and Metalwala was 21, according to court records. She became a U.S. citizen at age 19.
In a declaration made by Biryukova, the couple were married on Feb. 10, 2003, in the kitchen of Metalwala’s family home in Kirkland because he was facing deportation to Pakistan.
A series of difficulties
The couple began experiencing financial troubles around the time Sky was born in September 2009. They were hounded by bill collectors and faced foreclosure on a house and condominium, court records say.
Biryukova was committed to three mental-health facilities, the first time on her 29th birthday in March 2010, according to court records. But a psychologist’s evaluation concluded three months later that she was not psychotic and suggested she agreed to be committed only “under spousal duress.”
One psychologist who evaluated Biryukova wrote later that year that although she was dealing with “a severe form of obsessive compulsive disorder, I do not believe that interferes with her ability to be a compassionate, effective parent to her children.”
According to court documents, Metalwala filed for divorce on June 4, 2010, and the proceedings have been bitter, punctuated by accusations on both sides. Both have filed for protective orders against each other, and each has had custody of the two children at times.
Biryukova accused her husband of being controlling and physically and emotionally abusive.
“The most, most recent have been his threats to kill me if I say anything against him or if in any way I proceed with action of seeking custody of our two small children,” Biryukova wrote in court documents in June 2010. “I live in constant fear for my life and my children’s life.”
Metalwala denies the allegations of abuse and says Biryukova invented them to spite him and manipulate the divorce proceedings.
He claimed in court documents that she is mentally unstable and has obsessive compulsive disorder that prevents her from being able to keep food in the house or allow the children to sleep in their beds.
CPS has been involved
Court records also show that Child Protective Services (CPS) had investigated the couple.
In one instance, Biryukova reported her husband had left bruises on their daughter by striking her, and a social worker told the court there was evidence to support the allegations. A full CPS investigation, however, showed the complaint to be unfounded, according to Metalwala’s attorney, Leslie Clay Terry III.
Terry said the mandatory mediation in which the couple participated last week was intended to bring a close to the bitter divorce. Both parties had compromised, he said, and an agreement that granted custody to Biryukova but allowed visitation with Metalwala was signed by both.
“On Friday, she called and said she’d felt pressured and wanted to void it,” Terry said.
Metalwala said he is praying that his son simply is being hidden somewhere and that he is safe.
He has a message for whoever may have him.
“Please, sir or ma’am, if you have Sky, please bring him to the police, fire department or the hospital. Thank you for taking care of Sky this long, but please return him.”
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983
Seattle Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green and news researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report, which includes information from The Associated Press.