Washington police investigating the disappearance of 2-year-old Sky Metalwala said they are keeping an eye on the boy's mother in case she tries to leave the country.
Sky was last seen Nov. 6 while in the custody of his mother, Julia Biryukova, a Ukranian woman who emigrated from Russia when she was 12.
Police in Bellevue, Wash., have been openly skeptical of Biryukova's story that she was driving her two children to a hospital when she ran out of gas. She allegedly walked with her 4-year-old daughter to a gas station, but when she returned to her car Sky was gone.
"We're not comfortable calling her a person of interest or a suspect. So I suppose if she did intend to make travel plans it would be something we'd want to know about and discuss with her," Bellevue police Maj. Mike Johnson said today.
"It is something that's on our radar. We're watching for that," Johnson said.
The officer also did not rule out a theory that Biryukova, who is in a bitter custody battle with her husband Solomon, may be trying to smuggle her son out of the country.
"There's a lot of work going on to rule out possible theories of abduction, coercion, the element of custody battle between mom and dad, secreting him outside the country, all of these are viable theories," Johnson said.
Solomon Metalwala said today on "Good Morning America" he believes the boy's disappearance is related to a court decision granting him visitation rights.
In the week before Sky disappeared, the parents reached a tentative agreement that would allow Metalwala to have some visitation with the couple's two children. But two days later — and two days before she reported her son missing — Biryukova decided to pull out of the agreement, the Associated Press reported. In a letter sent by her attorney, Biryukova insisted that everyone at the mediation session had been against her and the settlement was unfair, according to Metalwala's divorce attorney, D. Michael Tomkins.
The father of the missing toddler has said several times he believes his wife, Biryukova, knows what happened to their 2-year-old son.
"She has had Sky for the last 10 months so I believe that she does know something," he said today on "Good Morning America."
A team of more than 300 people including volunteers, police and FBI agents have spent the past nine days searching for Sky, but to no avail.
Over the weekend Metalwala recruited volunteers who passed out fliers, and he has been talking to the media nearly daily pleading for help.
"I'm very blessed that I live in Washington where people are very nice and very grateful to help me," he told "GMA." "I do believe that my son is coming back home."
Biryukova has been speaking to police only through a criminal lawyer she hired following her son's disappearance. She has not responded to requests to speak to investigators voluntarily, Bellevue police Maj. Mike Johnson said at a news conference on Friday.
The Search for Sky Metalwala
When asked to comment, Biryukova's attorney would only tell ABC News, "My office does not comment about ongoing investigations."
Metalwala, who has agreed to take two polygraph tests, again today denied he has any involvement in his son's disappearance.
"I don't know what happened," Metalwala said. "If I knew I wouldn't be here."
Biryukova has refused to be tested, telling investigators that she has been too disturbed to participate.
There has not yet been enough evidence to name Biryukova as a suspect, Johnson said, but more discrepancies are appearing in her story.
The car she says ran out of gas ran fine on Friday when police took it for a test drive. No gas was added before the test and no mechanical problem was found during the drive, according to police.
Police also say Biryukova never bought gas at the Northtowne Chevron Service she and her daughter walked to on Sunday but, instead, spent time walking around a wealthy neighborhood where she reportedly didn't ask anyone for help.
Both Metalwala and Biryukova were cited for reckless endangerment in a December 2009 incident in which a then 3-month-old Sky was left in the family's SUV in a Target parking lot for 55 minutes on a 27-degree day, court records showed.
The case was dismissed earlier this year after the pair completed a year of probation, 40 hours of community service and a 10-week parenting class.
Police have received more than 900 tips so far about the missing toddler, but none of them have resulting in any solid leads. Even so, investigators are encouraging the public to continue coming forward.
"I want to stress the importance of every possible piece of information that's out there. We would really like people to err on the side of reporting information," Johnson said.
Anyone who sees a child matching this description is asked to call 911 immediately. Police are urging anyone who might have traveled along 112th Ave N.E., between I-520 and NE 24th Ave N.E., Sunday morning between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. to call Bellevue, Wash., police at 425-452-2564 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.