AG's report says protection order against dad who shot son had expired
MANCHESTER — The father who killed his 9-year-old son and then himself at a downtown visitation center last August had been under a domestic violence protection order that had been mistakenly allowed to expire, authorities said Thursday.
The disclosure is contained in the New Hampshire Attorney General's final report into the Aug. 11 murder-suicide at the Manchester YWCA. Joshua Savyon, 9, was shot in the back of the head by his father, Muni Savyon, who then shot his son multiple times before killing himself, the report found.
The shooting drew immediate attention to lax security practices at the visitation center, which beefed up security before re-opening.
The seven-page Attorney General's report also shows that the mother of the boy, Becky Ranes, had taken the proper steps after a March 2012 threatening conversation with Savyon, a dedicated Libertarian and Free State activist, over custody of their son.
Savyon told Ranes he owned a gun and said "it will be you, or it will be me and Joshua. You will see it on the news."
Ranes filed charges and sought a domestic violence petition. However, Savyon denied making the threat and told authorities he didn't own a gun. Police never searched Savyon's home, which would have required a search warrant.
After a year, Ranes sought to have the protection order extended. But the extension became bogged down in courtroom continuances, and the DVP "was mistakenly allowed to expire," according to a timeline in the report.
A week later, Savyon purchased ammunition at a Hooksett gun store. Four days after that, the shooting took place. The report found that the recently purchased ammunition was used in the shooting.
Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said the mistaken expiration likely played no role in the killing. Authorities weren't able to determine when Savyon acquired his gun, but he probably did so in a private sale, Strelzin said.
Such a private sale would not use the FBI instant background check system, which identifies people with DVPs and prevents them from purchasing firearms. Federal law does not require a background check of anyone purchasing ammunition.
Judge Edwin W. Kelly, the administrative judge of the circuit court system, said New Hampshire courts have procedures in place to update protection orders in an FBI background check system.
But the Savyon extension was not put into the system, he said.
"I can tell you everybody who handled this case is devastated by it," Kelly said. He said no one has been fired or disciplined.
In a statement, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence said no one should be able to see a child that the person has threatened to kill.
"In what other circumstance would we find it acceptable to put someone in the presence of another person who had threatened to kill them?" said Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public policy for the organization.
Other findings in the report:
• YWCA Program Director Katie Schelzel said the organization stopped using metal detectors because staff would not know what to do if a parent showed up with a gun. She said Savyon had been wanded in the past, and the wand went off. He blamed it on metal cans he brought in for his son.
• On the day of the shooting, father and son interacted well with one another and seemed to be having a good time, said Michael Solis, the program coordinator at the YWCA. The shooting took place about 40 minutes into the visit.
• In a note to neighbors, Savyon hints that the gun had been smuggled. He said Ranes believed too much in government. "And now she will be left alone with the terrible sadness that her only son had been taken from her, a sadness that I am very familiar with," he wrote. He also said he is insane.