MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — The head of a New Hampshire YWCA where a father killed himself and his 9-year-old son during a supervised visit defended the center’s security measures Monday and said the man’s threats that preceded the shootings are all too common in the population it serves.
“In domestic violence, that’s standard operating procedure: He says, ‘I’m going to kill you and the kids,’” YWCA president Monica Zulauf said at a news conference. “That is the victim we work with all the time here.”
Muni Savyon, 54, shot to death his son, Joshua, and then himself Sunday while the YWCA was open for supervised visits and custody exchanges, authorities said. According to court documents, Savyon had been upset over custody arrangements with the boy’s mother and had told her he would kill either her or himself and their son if he didn’t get what he wanted.
Savyon had been subject to a hand-held metal detector scan for previous visits at the YWCA but was not before Sunday’s shooting, authorities said Monday. Zalauf wouldn’t comment on that or other details of the shooting but emphasized that the possibility of violence exists for all the families who use the center for supervised visits, or else they wouldn’t need to be supervised.
“I’d like to see 15 layers of security and safety, but people who are going to commit an act of violence … they’re going to do it. You can do as much as you can, reasonably, but this man was determined,” she said.
When the YWCA has had the money in the past, it has hired police officers to be in the building to provide security during visitations, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin told WMUR-TV. But Zalauf said that was an oversimplification and noted that having a constant police presence would work against the center’s goal of providing a homelike atmosphere.
“At some point we have to shift this off ‘Did we wand this person?’ to, this man came in here and killed his son. We were doing what we could do to have him visit with his child in a safe, supportive environment, and he made that decision,” she said.
Born in Israel, Savyon was a naturalized citizen who lived in several Western states before coming to New England, where he worked as a software engineer. He and the boy’s mother, Becky Raines, were not married and split up years ago, her lawyer said Monday.
Law enforcement officials said their relationship had been contentious at times and Savyon had previously threatened to kill all three of them. The mother was granted a protective order against the father last year, attorney David Bailinson said.
“Joshua’s father had always been nearly impossible to co-parent with for her. Agreements between them were few and far between,” he said.
Bailinson said Raines and her family appreciate the outpouring of prayers and support since the shootings.
“They want people to know what a wonderful, caring, thoughtful and fun-loving little boy Joshua was and that everyone who got to know him will deeply miss the joy that he brought to their lives,” he said.
The boy studied taekwondo for four years at a studio in Bedford. He was “one of the most positive little boys ever to take a class,” owner Mark Harbinson said in a statement.
“He was a true joy to watch because he represented all the goodness and innocence of a young boy growing into a future leader,” Harbinson said. “We will never forget Josh. He was not just a student, but a member of our family.”
Rabbi Levi Krinsky of Chabad Lubavitch in Manchester said Savyon had been depressed after recently returning from his brother’s funeral in Israel but he had seen him last week and had no concerns he would harm himself or someone else.
“He was quiet in nature, a kind fellow, loved his son,” Krinsky said Monday. “His life was his son’s life.”
Krinsky said he hopes the shootings will spur people to act when they suspect someone may be in trouble. Zalauf agreed.
“If you have a neighbor with a restraining order, she shouldn’t have to hide that fact,” she said. “… Law enforcement is very supportive now of victims of domestic and sexual violence. We need to get the general public to say this is not OK.”
Associated Press writer Kathy McCormack in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.