MANCHESTER — Becky E. Ranes arrived at the YWCA Sunday morning to pick up her 9-year-old son and found the building surrounded by yellow crime scene tape.
Shots had been fired inside, she was told. Frantic, she called David I. Bailinson, the attorney who has represented her for about five years in a tortuous custody battle with Joshua's father, Menahem "Muni" Savyon, 54, of Manchester.
"She feared the worst," Bailinson said Monday. It wouldn't be until about 1 p.m. that Ranes would learn that Joshua, her beautiful, bright, loving little boy whose newest passion was martial arts, was dead, killed by his own father, Bailinson said. Savyon, a software computer programming consultant, then turned the gun on himself.
"There aren't words to describe the horrible grief and shock," Bailinson said of Ranes, a stay-at-home mom. Joshua was her only child, he said.
"Do you know what haunts her? Did he (Joshua) see it coming?"
Autopsies performed on the two revealed that Joshua died of multiple gunshot wounds and Muni Savyon died of "a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head."
Ranes had a restraining order against Savyon after he threatened her on March 29, 2012, with: "I have a gun. It's going to be either you or me and Joshua," according to court papers.
The threat happened in the parking lot at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinic in Nashua after a medical appointment for Joshua. Savyon was upset about the custody arrangement and wanted it changed. Ranes refused. And then he told her it would not be that weekend, but that "she would be in the newspaper and would be famous," according to court documents.
On Sunday, he did exactly what he threatened.
"If he was going to harm somebody, we thought it would be Becky or himself," Bailinson said. "We all hoped that the threat to his son was to terrorize Becky. How could any human being actually believe that this could happen?" he said.
On July 19, 2012, the criminal threatening case against Savyon, who Bailinson described as an emotionally abusive, controlling man, was placed on file without a finding in 9th Circuit Court, Nashua District Division.
Bailinson, who was not involved in the criminal case, said Ranes called him that day, upset because the prosecutor told her there was a problem with the way the complaint was worded and what was contained in the police reports. The prosecutor, he said, feared if the case went to trial it would result in a not guilty verdict. As a result, Ranes reluctantly agreed to the disposition.
But she also wrote a letter to the court, saying Savyon's threat against herself and their son was "awful and traumatic" and it was chilling when he told her it wouldn't happen that weekend, but later.
"He was calm on the outside and had clearly given this a very, scary amount of thought. At our domestic violence hearing he testified that he only said, 'This won't end well,'" she wrote.
The restraining order stayed in place in the criminal case until it was vacated last month. However, the restraining order in the custody case, issued out of Merrimack Family Court, was in effect. It required supervised visits with his son.
The couple had a short-term relationship and never married; Ranes is now married and lives in Amherst, Bailinson said.
Savyon was born in Israel but was a U.S. citizen who has lived here for about 20 years, according to Bailinson. Each summer, he returned to Israel for a three-week vacation accompanied by Joshua.
That is until this year, when the court said he could no longer take Joshua to Israel until he paid about $7,000 he owed in child support and medical expenses for his son. Bailinson said the argument was if Savyon, who was ordered to pay $80 a week, could pay for air travel and a vacation in Israel for three weeks every year, then he could pay his child support.
Savyon, according to Bailinson, maintained he was unemployed and that his bills were being paid by his family. Bailinson said he and Ranes always believed he was working under the table.
Firearms not surrendered
According to the restraining orders, Savyon was to surrender all firearms to police. Bailinson said that didn't happen because Savyon denied he had any.
At one court hearing, when Bailinson asked him why he had hearing protection gun muffs in his home if he didn't have any firearms (Joshua told his mother about the ear protection headphones), Savyon said he wore them when he vacuumed.
"No one in that courtroom believed that," Bailinson said. However, when a restraining order is issued after an incident involving a firearm or a gun threat, Bailinson said police do not have the authority to go to an individual's home and search it for firearms.
Joshua's family, he said, hopes legislation is enacted to change that.
Bailinson also said he believes supervised visitation centers should be required to use metal detecting devices in every case where a parent has threatened to kill a child — each and every time the parent arrives for a visit.
"I'm saying 100 percent he (Savyon) should have been swiped with a metal detector," he said. "There are monsters out there and he certainly had all the red flags."