Father Follows Abducted Children to Japan, Gets Arrested
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A Williamson County father is under arrest in Japan after picking up his two children who were abducted from Tennessee by his ex-wife, then racing Japanese police to the nearest U.S. Consulate.
A local court in his hometown of Franklin, Tenn., recently gave Christopher Savoie full custody of the boy and girl. But family and friends say that's not doing him much good in the custody battle that's now playing out 7,000 miles away in the city of Fukuoka, Japan.
"He's a very good man -- and he loves those kids," said his current wife, Amy Savoie, choking back tears as she talked to NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter, Phil Williams.
Amy Savoie said Christopher just wanted to see his children -- 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca. The two were abducted to Japan back in August by Christopher's ex-wife, Noriko.
Franklin, Tenn., police later issued a warrant for her arrest.
"It's hard to have quiet moments because my kids' words haunt me in those quiet times," Christopher Savoie said recently, before his trip to Japan.
After the abduction, Williamson County courts gave him full custody of the children.
But, because Japan doesn't recognize U.S. family court orders, he faced the prospect of never seeing them again.
"Their birthdays were coming up in October and November," Amy said, bursting into tears. "So, he wanted to say goodbye to them, to get them birthday presents."
Early Monday, Savoie apparently picked them up as they walked to school, according to friend and witness Shannon Higgins. But instead of heading to the nearest airport, Savoie drove straight to the nearest U.S. Consulate -- where Japanese police were waiting.
"This happens to many, many parents who have had their children abducted, but it's just heartbreaking to see this unfold in front of your eyes," Higgins told NewsChannel 5 by phone from Japan.
Apparently alerted by Savoie's ex-wife, Japanese police blocked the road near the consulate, Higgins said. Then, Savoie got out of the car and ran.
"So there was that first barricade -- and then, once they got to the gate, the U.S. Consulate did not open the gate," he recalled.
Like a scene from a movie, Higgins said, Isaac froze in the streets as his Dad raced toward the consulate with Rebecca in his arms.
"He was there -- Chris -- with a little girl in his arms crying. 'Please help, please help. We're American citizens. Please let us through.' And they simply did not open the gate They did not let us through," Higgins added.
Earlier this year, Noriko Savoie had threatened to take the children to Japan.
Christopher Savoie had sought a court order blocking his ex-wife from taking the children on a previously scheduled vacation to her home country. Williamson County Judge Jim Martin refused his request and ruled that she would be able to get their passports.
Noriko Savoie took them on that vacation, where she apparently made arrangements for them to move. She returned to Tennessee briefly and then, with the passports still in hand, she suddenly left the country in August with the children.
NewsChannel 5's Phil Williams spoke with Savoie briefly by phone after hours of questioning, but the call was cut off when he said police came into the room to handcuff him and lock him up.
The U.S. State Department said it could not comment for privacy reasons.
Amy Savoie said she's been told her husband has been charged criminally, but she doesn't know what charges he faces.
Now, she fears that, even though Noriko Savoie broke the law by abducting the children, the Japanese government may make him pay the price through the continued loss of his children and his freedom.
"It's just such a shame that his love is deemed to be so threatening," she added.
Efforts to reach the Japanese government were unsuccessful.
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