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9-year-old Joshua Savyon's intelligence, joy recalled


AMHERST — A black belt in taekwondo who loved the song "Kung Fu Fighting," Joshua Savyon was a strong kid with a sharp mind and big heart, and his murder stunned this small town.

On Sunday morning, during a supervised visit at the YWCA in Manchester, the boy known as "Josh" was shot and killed by his father, Muni Savyon, 54, who then shot himself.

Josh, 9, lived in Amherst with his mother, Becky Kendall Ranes. He attended Wilkins Elementary, where he was "known to his classmates and to staff as a gentle and happy child," according to a statement from Superintendent Peter Warburton.

"He was intelligent, friendly and extremely curious," Warburton said.

His instructors at ATA Martial Arts in Bedford said on their website that, "Josh was one of the most positive little boys ever to take a class."

Josh participated in taekwondo training for four years at ATA where he earned his black belt. But the boy never came to class without a smile on, the instructors said.

"His happy demeanor and desire to learn new things made him the ideal student," they said. "He was a true joy to watch, because he represented all the goodness and innocence of a young boy growing into a future leader."

But the "horrific, senseless tragedy" in which Josh was killed has left the school, and the community, reeling.

"When I first heard what happened I was shocked, and I tried to puzzle it out before I talked to my children," said an Amherst mom who asked that her name be withheld. "From there it jumped to what his mom must be feeling. It's awful."

The mom, whose oldest child was a classmate of Josh, spent part of Monday carefully telling her children what happened.

"I was trying to explain something that is unexplainable," she said. But she shared with her children the basics of what happened without getting into too much detail.

Her oldest child "cried and then crawled right into my lap," she said. "I talked a lot about how Josh's daddy wasn't right in the head and assured them and said that this kind of thing is rare."

The mom spoke to her kids about mental illness and how it can affect people; she and her husband also went to great lengths to ensure the children that they were in a healthy, solid environment.

"My greatest fear is that my children aren't going to feel safe in this world," she said. "So we're doing whatever we can to make sure they do feel safe."

According to Warburton, School Administrative Unit 39, which oversees schools in Amherst and Mont Vernon, is currently working to provide grief counseling to students, staff and parents. More information will be posted on the SAU website at www.sprise.com as it becomes available.

nfoster@newstote.com

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