Police say they may have a case of life – and perhaps a crime – imitating television.
Julia Biryukova, 30, claims that her 2-year-old son, Sky, vanished from her parked car last weekend in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Wash., after she left him alone when she ran out of gas and walked to a service station.
But police have yet to find young Sky Metalwala despite a wide-scale search involving scent-sniffing dogs, and now there are lingering questions about the mother’s role in the case.
“We suspect foul play,” Bellevue Police Major Mike Johnson said in a press conference Wednesday. “Nothing about the story adds up.”
In a twist, he notes that a recent Law & Order: SVU episode that aired locally the night before Sky’s disappearance was found to be “strikingly similar” to Biryukova’s claims. The episode involved a mother who covers up her child’s death by claiming it was abducted from a parked car.
Meanwhile, Biryukova’s estranged husband, Solomon Metalwala, 36, claims that Law & Order is his wife’s favorite TV show, according to his attorney, D. Michael Tomkins.
For her part, Biryukova has refused to take a polygraph and is also locked in a bitter custody battle with Metalwala, a Pakistani immigrant and former convenience store owner whom she married 14 years ago.
“He’s a mess as any parent would be,” Tomkins says about his client. “He feels his ex-wife’s story is hard to believe and has so many holes. He’s bewildered. He just wants to get his child back.”
Biryukova, a Ukrainian immigrant and stay-at-home mom who lives in nearby Redmond, Wash., told police that last Sunday she was taking her ill son to the hospital along with her 4-year-old daughter when her silver Acura ran out of fuel. She claims she left Sky unattended for one hour while she and her 4-year-old daughter walked to a nearby gas station for help.
When she returned, Sky was gone, she says.
Car Had Enough Gas
Although police continue to corroborate the mother’s story and have not named any suspects, they confirmed this week that Biryukova’s car did in fact have a significant amount of gas in the tank and drove without problems.
Police also say that Biryukova had difficulty finding any residents to help her despite wandering the neighborhood for an hour, and that she left her home that morning without her cell phone, purse and wallet despite wanting to seek medical treatment for Sky.
Biryukova’s attorney, who declined comment to PEOPLE, told police the woman was too devastated and in no condition to take a lie-detector test.
“We want to believe Julia,” Maj. Johnson said. “We want to help her find her missing child. [But her] story is falling apart day to day, and her lack of cooperation so far in regard to providing more information proactively and submitting to a polygraph doesn’t help.”
Her estranged husband did take a lie-detector test, but the results were deemed inconclusive. Metalwala’s attorney attributes this to fatigue and stress, and another test is pending.
Metalwala also issued a public plea this week.
“Please, sir or ma’am, if you have Sky, please bring him to the police, fire department or the hospital,” Metalwala said. “Thank you for taking care of Sky this long, but please return him.”