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Man kills son, self at YWCA in N.H.

Questions raised on safety at facility after budget cuts

Investigators entered the YWCA on Concord Street in Manchester, N.H., after the double shooting.
Investigators entered the YWCA on Concord Street in Manchester, N.H., after the double shooting.COLM O’MOLLOY FOR THE GLOBE

MANCHESTER, N.H. — A Manchester man shot and killed his young son and then himself Sunday at the YWCA, where recent budget cuts had led to reductions in security officers, according to authorities.

Muni Savyon, 54, shot his 9-year-old son, Joshua, several times during a supervised visitation, authorities said.

No one else was injured, including the counselor who was present in the room with the father and son, authorities said.

But the deaths raised larger questions about safety at the YWCA.

"There wasn't any security in place, other than the fact there was a counselor in the room," said Jeffery A. Strelzin, a senior assistant attorney general in New Hampshire, at a late-afternoon press conference. "They've had security in the past and were able to hire police officers, but because of budget cuts they haven't been able to do that recently."

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Strelzin said that while the YWCA did not have a full-sized metal detector, it had a handheld metal detector wand. He said he believed that a metal detector was used to sweep Savyon "in the past," but it was not used on him Sunday.

The Manchester YWCA offers child custody exchanges and supervised child visitation, according to its website, which lists a number of security measures it has in place. But, the website says, the YWCA Supervised Visitation & Child Exchange Center "cannot guarantee the safety of an individual."

Voicemails left at the office of Monica Zulauf, the president and chief executive of the YWCA in New Hampshire, were not returned.

In a statement, Dara Richardson-Heron, chief executive of the YWCA USA, said the organization was deeply saddened by the loss of life at the YWCA in New Hampshire. The tragedy, she said, "further strengthens our tireless commitment to the health and safety of women, children, and families from all walks of life."

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Shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday, police, including a SWAT team, responded to a 911 call reporting a gunman inside the YWCA, searched the building, and found the bodies, according to Lieutenant Maureen Tessier, a spokeswoman for the Manchester Police Department.

YWCA staff members and other people in the building were safely evacuated, she said.

Throughout the afternoon, investigators, some wearing white gloves, moved between the YWCA building and a police critical incident response truck parked outside. Investigators carried stacks of paper and small white boxes into the building.

Autopsies are scheduled to be conducted on both bodies Monday, according to authorities.

Savyon had a sometimes troubled relationship with the boy's mother, to whom he was not married and from whom he had been separated for several years, authorities said.

"The relationship has been contentious at times and included threats by Muni Savyon to kill himself, his son's mother, and their son," according to a statement released by New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph A. Foster and Manchester Police Chief David J. Mara.

Authorities did not release the name of the boy's mother, but said she dropped him off at the YWCA on Sunday morning.

Those who knew Savyon expressed surprise on Sunday.

His former wife, Ellen Savyon Vig, who is not the mother of Joshua, said in a phone interview she was "completely in shock."

"He was a nonviolent guy. He didn't drink, he didn't take drugs. He loved his son," she said.

"None of us had any inkling," Vig said. "And we don't know why he would take Joshua with him."

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Vig said she had met Savyon in his native Israel, and they married in 1991. They divorced in 1997 but remained in contact. She said he had no other children, worked as a software engineer, and had run for office in New Hampshire. Vig added that Savyon was "very involved" in Libertarian causes.

She described Joshua as "a nice kid, very energetic, very curious, a bright boy."

She said she last spoke to her former husband a few weeks ago on the telephone, when he was in Israel attending his brother's funeral. She said the death had been sudden, and Savyon was sad and upset.

Rabbi Levi Krinsky of Chabad Lubavitch in Manchester told reporters in Manchester he had known Savyon for five years.

He said Savyon had sent an e-mail to at least one friend saying "he was going to do something of this nature."

Savyon's brother had died five weeks earlier in Israel, Krinsky said. He had appeared distraught when Krinsky last met with him a week ago, the rabbi said.

"He was clearly spaced, his eyes were not focused on me," Krinsky said. "He was just very broken, which I thought was directly related to his brother's passing. Did I think he was suicidal? No. Did I think he was dangerous? Not in the slightest. Apparently this is what he was thinking. End it all."

Krinsky said Joshua had been involved in some youth programs at Chabad Lubavitch.

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"He was a rambunctious little boy, a typical kid coming from a custody battle home," he said.


Colin Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com. Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Globe correspondent Todd Feathers contributed to this report.