Japan frees U.S. dad accused of snatching kids
But he is devastated that he may never see them again, wife says
Though freed from a Japanese jail after attempting to abduct his own children from his ex-wife, an American businessman remains emotionally devastated by the knowledge that he may never see his 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter again.
“He’s been traumatized. It’s very difficult to talk about. It’s very emotional,” Christopher Savoie’s wife, Amy Savoie, told TODAY’s Ann Curry Thursday in an interview from Nashville, Tenn. “His children are basically dead to him now. It’s horrible, and I don’t know how a parent goes forward from that kind of devastation. Our lives have been completely dismantled by this tragedy.”
Christopher Savoie was released Thursday after 18 days in custody. He was jailed after he abducted his children, Isaac and Rebecca, in southern Japan as his ex-wife was walking them to school.
Divorce, then disappearance
Savoie had married Japanese native Noriko Savoie and lived with her in Japan from 2001 to 2008 while he ran a company he founded. According to ABC News, he had become a Japanese citizen while in that country.
But the marriage soured, and after the couple moved to Franklin, Tenn., they divorced in January of this year. In April, Noriko took the children with her, with a court’s permission, on vacation to Japan. She returned with them, but two weeks later disappeared with the children.
Although Christopher Savoie had custody rights in the United States, in Japan, he had none. Unlike most developed countries, Japan has never signed a Hague Treaty guaranteeing custody rights to parents in international divorces. In Japan, the law allows one parent — usually the mother — to have exclusive custody in such cases.
Desperate to have his children, Christopher Savoie tried to solve the matter himself. Now, said his current wife, he has to face the prospect of living without them.
“Isaac and Rebecca are now somewhere in Japan with no access to their father, who loved them dearly,” Amy Savoie told Curry. “No more hugs from their father, no more phone calls or playing the guitar with their father. No more playing baseball with their father. I can’t imagine that any 8-year-old or 6-year-old would actually choose to live a life without a parent if they were able to make such a choice.”
‘Hello, I’m out’
When Savoie was released without bail, Japanese authorities said he was not considered a flight risk. But his wife said her understanding is that the Japanese want him to return to the United States — without his children.
“My understanding is one of the conditions of his release is that he did return to the United States,” Amy Savoie said. “He will be coming home and he needs to return to work. He needs to return to law school; we’re both law students. He needs to continue this fight from here and just try to effect some positive change if we can. We’ll work as hard as we can.”
The Japanese government has stated that it will attempt to find a resolution to Savoie’s case as well as many other similar cases. But Amy Savoie, who is working with other affected families, did not hold out hope that there would be any change soon in Japanese law.
“I think it’s going to take a long time for them to overcome the thinking that they’ve had since the 1940s, in which one parent has custody of the child,” she said. “This is definitely going to be a marathon, and there are so many grieving families that have contacted me.”
Amy, was awakened by a telephone call at her Franklin, Tenn., home early Thursday and answered to hear her husband’s voice.
“Hello, my love, I’m out,” were his first words, Amy Savoie told The Associated Press.
Not sure if he’s heading home
She said the couple had only a few minutes to talk, and it isn’t yet clear when her husband could be coming home.
“We’ve been able to speak, but there’s so much to talk about,” she said. “This is all about him coming home.”
The Fukuoka District Prosecutors Office refused to comment on the Savoie case. But a suspect with a pending indictment is released on the condition he or she accepts further questioning. No bail is involved in a pre-indictment release.
Savoie’s Japanese lawyer, Tadashi Yoshino, was not immediately available for comment.
U.S. Consulate spokeswoman Tracy Taylor declined to comment on details of his release, but added that her understanding was that he would not be indicted.
“We are pleased to hear that he was released, and we are hopeful that we can work with the Japanese government to come to a long-term solution on this problem,” Taylor said. “ ‘This problem’ meaning the issue of international child abduction.”
Japan’s custody policy has begun to raise concern abroad, following a recent spate of incidents involving Japanese mothers bringing their children back to their native land and refusing to let their foreign ex-husbands visit them.
Amy Savoie repeated how hard the situation has been on her husband. “It’s very devastating,” she told Curry. “Isaac and Rebecca love their father. It’s a tragedy.”