Nine years have passed since Rebecca and Isaac Savoie went missing from Franklin, Tennessee.
The kids, six and eight at the time, were at the center of a divorce that took them more than 6,000 miles away from Middle Tennessee to Japan.
Their father, Christopher Savoie, made world headlines, after allegedly trying to recover his children from Japan.
“Elation left for a few minutes, and now we’re back to square one,” said Amy Savoie, Christopher’s wife, in an interview in 2009.
Christopher returned home from that trip in October of 2009 empty-handed, igniting a nearly decade-long overseas battle to get his kids back from their mother, his ex-wife Noriko Esaki.
“Divorce is hard for any family, and for kids involved in it,” said Lt. Charles Warner of the Franklin Police Department.
The department has been overseeing the case from day one.
“Any parental abduction, or custodial interference case, is difficult in itself,” said Lt. Warner. “Take them outside the state of Tennessee, and it grows even more complicated. Take things outside of the U.S. and things grow even more complex. “
The last time Christopher saw his children was August 11, 2009.
That morning, Noriko picked up Isaac and Rebecca for school from Christopher’s house, in the Fieldstone Farms neighborhood in Franklin.
Two days later, Williamson County School officials notified Christopher that his kids didn’t show up to Winstead Elementary.
August 17, the Savoies report to Franklin police that Noriko abducted Isaac and Rebecca and had taken them to Japan.
“Per case report, Chris had full custody of the children,” said Lt. Warner. “She didn’t have any right to remove them from his custody or care and certainly not from the United States.”
The challenge for detectives became the kids now being an ocean apart.
“If those kids were, if they were in Fairview, or in Clarksville, in a heartbeat, we’d be all over that,” said Lt. Warner. “But the fact is, they’re not.”
From sadness and frustration, to hope and action, Christopher’s case made the case for change.
“We’re not kidding,” said New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith. “Please send these children back to the United States and we’re not going to stop until that happens.”
In 2014, Japan joined the Hague Convention, an agreement on international child abductions.
Yet, the children weren’t returned.
Noriko, to this day, is wanted by the FBI for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and by Franklin police for custodial interference.
The offenses though aren’t recognized by a foreign government.
“It complicates things from our perspective,” said Lt. Warner. “Unless she was here, in the U.S., that warrant is basically unservable. We wish as a department there was more that we could do to help Mr. Savoie. The fact is, our hands are really tied.”
In that gray area is a sense of solace.
Regular welfare checks by federal officials, relay that Isaac and Rebecca are happy and thriving.
“In many cases, we see that parent has to move on with their lives without their children and those children have to move on with their lives without that parent. Unfortunately, since 2009, that’s been the case here,” said Lt. Warner. “Our hopes are, one day, whether, through us or their own accord, they’re able to reconcile that lost time.”
News 2 tried reaching out to Christopher Savoie but have not yet heard back.
Now that Isaac and Rebecca are 15 and 17 years old, investigators say the two now have increased ability to reach out to their father, the Embassy or Consulate.
If you have any tips on this case, you’re urged to call Crime Stoppers at 615-794-4000.
You can also directly share tips with a Franklin police detective at 615-550-6815, or the Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.