Details of Disappearance
Rebecca and her brother Isaac
disappeared from Franklin, Tennessee on August 11, 2009. They were abducted by their non-custodial mother, Noriko Esaki Savoie. A felony warrant for parental kidnapping was issued for her on August 17, 2009.
A photo of Noriko is posted with this case summary. Her date of birth is June 4, 1972, making her 37 years old at the time of the children's abductions. She's described as Asian, of Japanese descent, 5'8 and 112 pounds, with black hair and black eyes.
Isaac and Rebecca's father, Christopher J. Savoie, is an American citizen. He and Noriko married in 1995 and lived in Japan with the children until their separation in 2007. Christopher obtained Japanese citizenship. He returned to the United States after he separated from Noriko and she followed him there, although they didn't live together.
They got a divorce in America and Christopher remarried, although he and Noriko remained legally married according to Japanese law. They and agreed that both of them would stay in Tennessee and raise the children there.
Christopher stated Noriko received an $800,000 divorce settlement as well as substantial alimony and child support. According to the custody agreement, her primary residence would be in Tennessee. Christopher would spend 180 days a year with Isaac and Rebecca, and Noriko would take the children to Japan for a six-week vacation every summer.
However, immediately after the custody agreement was finalized, Noriko began indicating she wanted to return to Japan with the children. She stated she was concerned that the children were losing their Japanese identity and becoming American.
Christopher filed for a restraining order to prohibit her from taking the children to Japan, but Noriko challenged the order in court. The judge permitted her to take Rebecca and Isaac to Japan for their six-week summer vacation, relying on her word that she would return them to the United States per the custody agreement.
She did, in fact, return them, but whilst in Japan Noriko enrolled the children in Japanese schools and made other arrangements for a permanent relocation to that country.
After Noriko and the children returned to the U.S., without Christopher's knowledge she packed up her, Isaac and Rebecca's belongings and shipped them to Japan, and also transferred all her money from American bank accounts to to Japanese ones.
When the 2009 school year started, Christopher learned his children hadn't started the year at their Tennessee school; instead, their mother had taken them and fled in violation of the custody agreement and court order.
When Christopher told the family court what had happened, they immediately gave him sole custody of the children, but the order cannot be enforced as long as the children and Noriko are out of the country.
In late September 2009, Christopher flew to Japan to try to get the children back. He met Rebecca and Isaac in rural Yanagawa, Japan while they were on their way to school with their mother. Christopher took them from Noriko and drove to the United States consulate, almost 50 miles away, to get passports for them and fly them back to America.
The Japanese police were waiting for him when he arrived and they arrested him at the gate and jailed him for 17 days. Immediately after his release, he left Japan and went home. He hasn't had contact with his children since.
The children's abduction has received international attention in both American and Japanese media, but Christopher fears he will not see his son and daughter again until they are grown. Although their whereabouts are known, they are considered to be missing but they aren't with their custodial father.