SEATTLE -- As Bellevue Police struggle to make sense of the story provided by a missing toddler's mother, investigators are looking at a recent TV episode of "Law and Order: SVU."
Police admit there are some similarities between the NBC program, which aired Saturday night, and the disappearance of 2-year-old Sky Metalwala, who was reported missing Sunday.
"I know that there's several folks up in the operations center, the command post, that have taken a look at that episode," said Maj. Mike Johnson with the Bellevue Police Department. "[They] have commented that it is strikingly similar in nature."
In the episode, a mother tells police that she left her baby in a car when she ran into a convenience store to buy diapers, then claims the car was stolen with the baby inside.
In an emotional moment, the fictional mother screams, "They stole my car, my son was in the backseat, someone stole my baby!"
As the plot unravels, investigators discover the stolen-car story was a lie, and the parents were covering up their child's death. The parents say they made up the story because they thought they had accidentally killed the child. But it turns out the baby died of natural causes, and the parents are never prosecuted in the "Law and Order" program.
"It's not unheard of that television or film can inspire people or give people ideas," aid Barry Mitzman, who teaches strategic communications at Seattle University. "It's not common, but it's not unknown."
It is hard to say what, if any, help the episode can provide Bellevue investigators. Police do not know if Julia Biryukova, Sky's mother, even saw the episode, which originally aired October 19 before airing again this past Saturday.
Biryukova has told police that Sky vanished Sunday in Bellevue when she left him sleeping alone in her unlocked car after it ran out of gas. She and her 4-year-old daughter walked to get gas, she said, and when they returned an hour later, the boy was gone.
Investigators said Wednesday the car had not run out of gas, but police have not ruled out a mechanical problem with the car.