Image: Sky and Maile Metalwala
AP
In this undated handout photo provided by Solomon Metalwala, Sky Metalwala is seen, top, with his sister, Maile Metalwala.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/10/2011 8:15:36 PM ET 2011-11-11T01:15:36

Police on Thursday used an afternoon news conference to issue a direct request to the mother of a missing Seattle-area boy to talk to investigators, NBC affiliate KING 5 reported.

"I want to make a public invitation to Julia (Biryukova), via her attorney, and let her know that we are open and willing to interview her and take information from her when she is ready to do that," Bellevue Police Maj. Mike Johnson said, KING 5 reported.

"Polygraph or not, we have questions for Julia we'd like to ask," Johnson said.

Earlier in the day, Johnson said finding 2-year-old Sky Metalwala was their top priority, and that the mother "holds the key to that."

Bellevue police said they searched a storage locker at Biryukova's apartment on Wednesday. They planned to focus Thursday on checking her car for mechanical problems, as well as following up on tips from the community.

Biryukova told police her son vanished Sunday after her car ran out of gas and she left him sleeping alone while she walked to get gas.

Story: Cops: Mom of missing boy had gas in car

Investigators have found the car had gas, but haven't ruled out another mechanical problem.

Tips have come in from hundreds of miles away, from members of the public and from one psychic. Two officers are processing the information, but none of the tips has provided any useful clues, police spokeswoman Carla Iafrate said.

Bitter divorce battle
Biryukova was involved in a divorce and custody battle with the boy's father, Solomon Metalwala, The Seattle Times reported. The father took a polygraph on Monday, but results were inconclusive. A second test was scheduled to be conducted by the FBI, KOMO TV reported.

During a tough mediation session that lasted about 12 hours last week, the parents reached a tentative agreement that would allow Metalwala to have some visitation with Sky and his older sister.

But two days later — and two days before she reported her son missing — Biryukova decided to pull out of the agreement, Metalwala's divorce attorney, D. Michael Tomkins, said Wednesday. In a letter sent by her attorney, Biryukova insisted that everyone at the mediation session had been against her and the settlement was unfair, Tomkins said.

The children didn't attend the marathon session, and it's possible they were left home alone for the entire time — raising the possibility that Sky could have become dehydrated, Tomkins said.

Papers filed in the divorce say that Biryukova suffered from "severe" obsessive-compulsive disorder. Metalwala wrote in a declaration that she would frequently go on 10-hour cleaning binges during which she wouldn't even feed the children, but a doctor reported that her diagnosis didn't interfere with her ability to care for the kids.

Biryukova acknowledged having a history of leaving the children home alone for extended periods of time, Johnson said. Police know whether she did so during the lengthy mediation — but won't release that information.

If Sky was left in the car, it wouldn't have been the first time.

When he was 3-months-old, his parents left him in their SUV in a Target parking lot for 55 minutes on a 27-degree day, court records showed. The couple came out of the store to get Sky only after police arrived and asked for the vehicle's owner to be paged.

Redmond police cited both parents for reckless endangerment in the December 2009 incident. However, the case was dismissed early this year after the pair completed a year of probation, 40 hours of community service and a 10-week parenting class.

KING 5 TV and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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