Police in Washington state spent a second day Monday searching for a toddler whose mother said he vanished from an unlocked car that ran out of gas, as court documents revealed that the boy's parents had previously been cited for leaving him unattended in a vehicle and his mother had obtained a restraining order against his father last year.
The mother, Julia Biryukova, told investigators she left 2-year-old Sky Metalwala alone Sunday as she and her 4-year-old older daughter walked a mile to a gas station, Bellevue police said. When she came back an hour later, the boy was gone, she said.
Investigators searched a 20-block area and even went door to door but found no sign of him. The FBI, King County Sheriff's Office and a King County helicopter were enlisted to help.
The Bellevue Police Department said both parents were cooperating, and Biryukova had consented to have her vehicle and home in nearby Redmond searched.
"We're looking at it from all angles, at this point," said Bellevue Police Maj. Mike Johnson. "Missing person, abduction, foul play has not been ruled out."
In December 2009, officers in Redmond cited Biryukova and her husband, Solomon Metalwala, for reckless endangerment after they acknowledged leaving Sky, then 3 months old, in their Cadillac sport-utility vehicle in a Target parking lot on a 27-degree day. A shopper who heard the baby crying called police, and a responding officer reported that the car felt cold.
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.
The case was dismissed early this year after the pair agreed to a year of probation, 40 hours of community service and a 10-week parenting class, said Ian Goodhew, a spokesman for the King County Prosecutor's Office.
Claims of abuse
The couple had been together for 14 years, married since 2003 and separated in March 2010, court records show. In June 2010, the same month Metalwala filed for divorce, Biryukova, 30, filed for a protection order on behalf of herself and their two children.
She said Metalwala, 36, had a severe anger problem, was verbally abusive and that he had beat her for the first time on Christmas Day, just weeks after the incident at the Target parking lot. The reason was that she had allowed Sky to sleep later than expected, she said.
"He became furious like I have never seen him before, he grabbed me by my hair (in front of our 3½ year old daughter), dragged me into our hallway, threw me down on the floor and then threw me against a decorative column we have in the entrance of our home," Biryukova wrote. "He continued to assault me with his feet — by kicking me and then he took out his car keys and continued to scratch me in any area he could."
The abuse escalated after that, with Solomon telling her to go live on the street and work as a prostitute, she said.
"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 added. "I live in constant fear for my life and my children's life. Please investigate and help me!"
He responded that she had mental health issues and that he feared for the safety of the children when they were in her care.
A man who answered the phone at King Street Kafe and Market, a shop Metalwala owns in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood, referred calls to a Leslie Clay Terry III, a lawyer who represented the couple in the reckless endangerment case. Terry did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Other possible phone numbers for Metalwala could not immediately be verified.
Johnson reported from Seattle. Associated Press writer Phuong Le in Seattle contributed to this report.