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NC5 Investigates: Abducted to Japan

Ex-Wife Abducts Two Children, Disappears to Japan

Christopher Savoie Christopher Savoie
Noriko Savoie Noriko Savoie
8-year-old Isaac 8-year-old Isaac
6-year-old Rebecca 6-year-old Rebecca

A Middle Tennessee man stands at the center of another heartbreaking, international parental abduction.

In this case, his ex-wife ignored a judge's order and took their two children back to her home in Japan.

Now, the Williamson County father is working with the FBI and the U.S. State Department to try to get his children back.

But he knows there's very little hope.

Still, he tells our chief investigative reporter Phil Williams that the judge could have stopped her.


For Christopher Savoie and wife Amy, family photos are a reminder of how good life once was -- life with his 8-year-old son Isaac, and 6-year-old daughter Rebecca.

"I can't sleep -- it's horrible," Christopher Savoie told Williams.

But life for their big, happy family -- his kids and her kids -- was shattered back in August when Christopher's kids were abducted by his ex-wife.

"Everywhere I look, there's a picture," he said, choking back his emotions. "I can't go in his bedroom because, I'm like, he'll never sleep in his bed again."

For Amy's son, it's been like losing a brother.

"Isaac throws his clothes like in a ball on the floor and Christopher felt like, if I put it in the hamper, it would be like throwing away Isaac," she said, as her eyes teared up.

Isaac and Rebecca were caught in the middle when Christopher and his first wife, Noriko, divorced.

The Japanese native had agreed to live in Franklin with the children, returning only to Japan for summer vacations.

But Isaac and Rebecca's school called on the first day of classes. The children were missing.

"I got very concerned," Christopher remembered. "I kept calling, calling. The school kept calling. Nobody could get through to her."

Fearing something tragic, Christopher finally reached his ex-wife's father in Japan, who told him not to worry.

"I said, 'What do you mean -- don't worry? They weren't at school.' Oh, don't worry, they are here. I said, 'They are what, they are what, they are in Japan?'"

Amy added, "He yelled, 'They're in Japan, they're in Japan.' Then, he came in here and he had this disbelieving look in his eyes. He was standing right over there near the dishwasher and he said, 'Let me talk to my son, let me talk to my son.'"

Christopher had little time.

"I just said, 'I love you Isaac. I love you. Remember that I love you and I want you back. You should be here. You should be in school. You should be with your daddy.'"

But even more tragic is this: Christopher's ex-wife knew that Japan doesn't recognize family court orders from the U.S.

In fact, Noriko Savoie had repeatedly threatened to take the kids and run.

Still, Williamson County Judge Jim Martin ordered that Isaac and Rebecca's passports be released to their mother so they could go on vacation.

That despite an email sent to Christopher in which Noriko Savoie suggested she might have more than just vacation on her mind.

"I am on the edge of a cliff," she had written. "I am having more difficulty staying here. It's very hard to watch [the] kids becoming American and losing [their] Japanese identity."

Christopher took it seriously. "If she's still saying in that letter that  that she wants to move, that she doesn't like it here in Middle Tennessee, maybe we ought to take that seriously."

But the judge told Christopher that he needed to accept that life was full of risks, that he had signed the divorce agreement that allowed her to take the children to Japan.

In fact, Noriko took the children for vacation where she made living arrangements for them. She returned to the U.S. briefly, then -- with their passports in hand -- disappeared.

"He had the power, he had the power to keep those kids in my life, and he didn't care," Christopher added.

Christopher's new wife, Amy, said the smallest reminders -- like spotting Isaac's toothbrush -- can make a day difficult.

"The toothbrush is up there and I don't what to do with it," Amy said. "Is he coming back? I don't think he is."

And the nights are even worse.

"It's hard to have quiet moments because my kids' words haunt me in those quiet times," Christopher added.

Still, he hopes his children never forget what he told Isaac in that first phone call to Japan.

"Please remember that I love you. Get yourself to an embassy some day. Remember those words. I know you don't maybe understand them yet. But, remember, get yourself to an embassy. I love you and I want you here. I do love you."

As with a lot of divorces, this one's also complicated. Christopher and Noriko had joint custody, but Noriko's lawyer doesn't have much nice to say about him.

Still, she admits her client should not have taken the kids.

Another judge has now given him legal custody of the children, and Franklin police have issued a warrant for her arrest.

The problem is that there's very little they can do to enforce it in Japan.

Judge Martin wouldn't talk about the case.

But there are serious questions about whether he should have heard the case at all.

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