Father's rabbi speculates: 'If he left Joshua alive, his ex won'
The father who shot his 9-year-old son to death at a Manchester YWCA last Sunday had shared custody of the boy until he "snapped" and threatened the boy's mother last year.
According to a plan filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court on Aug. 15, 2008, Menahem "Muni" Savyon and Becky Kendall, who were not married, agreed to joint responsibility for "making major decisions" about their son.
Under the parenting plan, Joshua Savyon split his time between the two households. He resided primarily with his mother, but spent Thursday through Monday with his father every other week.
Joshua also would spend Mother's Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas with his mother. He would spend Father's Day and seven Jewish holidays with his father in Manchester, according to the plan.
The parents also agreed that Joshua could travel with his father to Israel, where Muni Savyon was born.
Joshua's mother, now Becky Ranes, is married and lives in Amherst.
Edwin Kelly, administrative judge of the Circuit Court, said Savyon had asked to modify the parenting plan in February of 2012. "He wanted more parenting time," he said.
But a month later, Savyon was charged with criminal threatening. "Once that happened, everything stopped," Kelly said.
According to court records, during "a heated exchange" on March 29, 2012, Savyon had told Ranes, "I have snapped. We live in New Hampshire. I have a gun, it's going to be either you or me and Joshua." The court granted Ranes a restraining order against Savyon and ordered him to complete an anger management evaluation "to assess dangerousness."
The custody plan changed drastically. Instead of having his son half the time every other week and on holidays, Savyon was allowed only supervised visitation with the boy twice a week at a visitation center in either Nashua or Manchester, according to court records.
On July 19, 2012, the criminal case was placed on file for a year without a finding, according to Ranes' attorney, David Bailinson, because of a problem with the wording in the complaint.
Last March, Ranes filed for an extension of the domestic violence order of protection, which was due to expire on May 3, according to court records. A hearing was set for Aug. 27 in 9th Circuit Court, Family Division, in Merrimack.
Savyon's attorney had filed an objection to that request, noting that Savyon had been attending a "batterer's intervention program" weekly since last November and was undergoing individual therapy. In court papers, Savyon argued that "no one has ever provided or completed an assessment or investigation as to the Defendant's alleged dangerousness or lack thereof as it relates to his son."
But the court-ordered custody arrangement remained in place. Savyon was to see Joshua only during supervised visitation centers.
And it was during one of those visits, at the Manchester YWCA, that Savyon shot and killed his son and then himself last Sunday.
Rabbi Levi Krinsky had known the father and son for several years; Savyon brought Joshua to events at the Chabad Lubavitch synagogue in Manchester.
He last saw Muni Savyon the Wednesday before the murder-suicide and said Savyon had just returned from Israel, after the unexpected death of his younger brother there.
Krinsky said he knew Savyon was taking the death of his brother, who was his confidant, very hard. But he had no idea how much pressure was apparently building up over the child custody issue.
"He was losing custody of the only other person in his life, which was Joshua," Krinsky said.
"Why did he take Joshua and shoot him to death? Because if he left Joshua alive, his ex won."
Now, Krinsky said, there are two mothers who are mourning lost sons: Joshua's mother here in New Hampshire and Savyon's mother in Israel.
Krinsky said he wishes he had known about the threats Savyon had made against Becky Ranes and Joshua. "I certainly would have found a way to talk with him face to face and to maybe convince him to come off that ledge. Not to jump, not to kill."
But he said privacy laws that bar medical professionals from sharing information about an individual's medical condition often prevent religious leaders from finding out crucial information about their congregants. "Maybe we have to learn to see those warning signs and not be so worried about ... HIPAA laws."
Krinsky recalled how devoutly Savyon had observed the Jewish mourning period when Savyon's father died about three years ago. "There was a feeling of life and death, that it meant something to him in his own life. And yet he was able to take his own life. ..."
Last Sunday morning, Krinsky said, Savyon parked legally near the YWCA and left a pack of cigarettes on the front seat of his car when he went inside.
Then, authorities say, halfway through his 9:30 a.m. supervised visit with Joshua, he pulled out a handgun and shot his son several times before turning the gun on himself.
A male counselor monitoring the session escaped unharmed.
Asked how he would fix the system for broken families, Krinsky said it's a matter of making children the priority. "A family is the most precious thing we have. We're partners of God. We bring people into the world.
"It's the greatest single blessing that God gives man, the ability to procreate."
What does Krinsky wish he'd said to Savyon that last day he saw him? "I would tell him simply that every single person that was created on the face of the earth has a purpose and mission in life. The fact that you're born means that you matter in God's eyes.
"To give him some sense of importance and relevance, and let him know he has a lot to live for, and not let him make those mistakes."