BELLEVUE, Wash. -- More photos of a missing two-year-old Bellevue boy and his mother were released by police on Friday, and for the first time police said tips received from the public had proved valuable to investigators.
Investigators on Saturday were following up on several leads in many different locations, including in Kirkland.
Bellevue Police displayed about a dozen recent photos of Sky Metalwala and Julia Biryukova from the days leading up to Sky's disappearance. Investigators said they hope the new pictures will help people who may have seen the family remember more specific details.
Images of Sky show him with a short-cropped hairstyle, much shorter than images circulated previously by police or seen on Biryukova's Flickr account.
Biryukova is shown in surveillance photos from an unknown store. The images show her with darker hair, as well as a gray sweatsuit that detectives believe she was wearing on Sunday, November 6, when Sky was last seen.
"This is the woman that was out there Sunday morning with her child," said Major Mike Johnson with the Bellevue Police Department, gesturing toward a storyboard of photos. "She does look considerably different [than in widely circulated photos posted on social media sites]."
Johnson said Biryukova has still not been interviewed by police since Nov. 6 when Sky was first reported missing.
"We have continued to reach out and ask for information from Sky's mother, as recently as today and through her attorney," said Johnson. "But unfortunately we have yet to get any information."
When asked whether detectives continue to pursue the option of arresting Biryukova, Johnson said the primary concern remains finding Sky but that, "[his] statement stands about her story falling apart."
Additionally, 35 photos of Sky and his sister were added to Biryukova's Flickr account on Thursday. The photos appear to have been taken earlier this year.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Bellevue Police tipline at (425) 452-2564.
In the two weeks since Sky disappeared, more than 1,200 tips have come into police. Johnson stressed that no matter the significance, any tip is worth calling into investigators. Fewer than 25 of those tips are in line for investigators to follow up on.
"I'm pleased to report that some of those tips have been helpful, but I won't be able to talk more specifically about exactly how," said Johnson. "Please know that the tips are extremely valuable to our investigation."
Search for Sky Metalwala
Police, family and volunteers have been searching for Sky for two weeks, when Biryukova told police Sky disappeared after she and her four-year-old daughter left him alone in his car seat near the 2400 block of 112th Ave NE in Bellevue. Biryukova said the car ran out of gas.
When Biryukova came back about an hour later, she said Sky was gone. Investigators said the car seat was still in the car and there were no signs of forced entry. At least one of the car doors was unlocked, police said.
Police said if Sky climbed out of the car on his own, he would have to have release the harness on his seat, assuming he was buckled in, and would have had to open a car door that was parked facing uphill. For those reasons, they think it's very unlikely he left on his own.
Police took Biryukova’s car out for a test drive four days later. They said there was still enough gas to drive the car a considerable distance, but they wanted to be sure there were no other mechanical issues. They reported finding no other problems with the car.
After the initial report, Biryukova refused to be interviewed by police or take a polygraph examination, on the advice of her attorney.
Police also inspected two garbage transfer stations and a landfill during the investigation. It’s not uncommon in cases like these to trace garbage.
Sky’s father, Solomon Metalwala, has organized searches and posted flyers on the eastside in hopes someone has some information. Biryukova and Solomon have been involved in a custody dispute for Sky and his sister.
In 2009, Sky’s parents were cited for reckless endangerment for leaving Sky alone in their SUV in below freezing temperatures for nearly an hour. A witness called 911 after seeing sky in the Redmond Target parking lot “crying at the top of his lungs.”
More details from Friday's press conference
- "No new suspect or person of interest information has surfaced to date," according to Maj. Johnson
- Of the surveillance photos of Biryukova, Johnson said they were taken at "local retailers" but declined to say exactly where
- Police have been able to narrow the timeline of when they think Sky disappeared, but would not specify
- Elaborating on why Biryukova has not been arrested, Johnson said: "Certainly, looking at Julia's actions on the morning of the 6th, there may be a reason to arrest her for a crime that morning. But our concern has always been to solve the bigger picture issue, which is the disappearance of Sky," and, "It's a tactical, strategic, legal decision that is something we are considering but not something we're ready to pull the trigger on yet."