A Michigan woman who was killed, along with her mother and son, by her husband in a murder-suicide after being denied an order of protection said that tensions rose in the home after she tried to separate from him because of an alleged infidelity, her lawyer said Friday.
Tirany Savage's divorce attorney, Nancy Gallagher, said during an interview with NBC News on Friday that Bo Savage's behavior appeared to grow increasingly dangerous during the time Tirany was trying to leave him.
Bo Savage got "more manipulative, more controlling," Gallagher said.
Tirany Savage emailed a petition for an order of protection to Gallagher's office on Saturday, hours before she was killed. Gallagher wasn’t involved in filing the petition.
Tirany Savage, 35, filed for a protection order June 24 in Michigan’s 34th Circuit Court, claiming her husband had bought a gun, repeatedly threatened suicide and refused to leave the family’s home in Houghton Lake. It was denied three days later and nearly two weeks after the family was killed.
In his denial, Judge Troy Daniel wrote that Savage could request a restraining order in divorce court, the document said. She filed for divorce on July 7.
Gallagher said Tirany Savage had been the victim of domestic violence in the past. She first met Tirany Savage several years ago when she handled a custody case involving Savage’s son, Dayton Cowdrey, 13, and his father, authorities said. Dayton was killed in the murder-suicide.
The lawyer described Tirany Savage’s relationship with her child’s father as abusive. Court records show that he pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge in 2010 that Gallagher said was against Tirany Savage. He’s now in prison on drug charges, according the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Gallagher said she was impressed with Tirany Savage because she “was a single mom who was a survivor of domestic violence and put herself through nursing school.”
“She had so much going for her and she was just doing so well in so many ways. I want it to be known — she wasn’t somebody making terrible decisions,” Gallagher said.
A request for protection denied
On Sunday, deputies in Roscommon Township, roughly 115 miles north of Lansing, were dispatched to a home around 3:30 a.m. and found the bodies of Tirany Savage; her husband; her son and her mother, Kim Lynette Ebright, 58, the Roscommon County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
The sheriff’s office announced Friday that Bo Savage had legally obtained a gun found at the scene. According to autopsy reports, Tirany Savage, her son and her mother died from gunshot wounds in a homicide. Bo Savage killed himself by gunshot, the sheriff’s office said.
In her request for a protection order, Tirany Savage wrote about her husband's threats and recent behavior, “He has mental health issues (he quit taking his meds) & recently purchased a firearm & that is concerning to me. He keeps saying he is going to blow his brains out & I do not want my safety or my sons safety in jeopardy.”
Tirany Savage listed some of the reasons she needed protection in the order request, including that her husband was threatening to kill or hurt her; he was interfering with her at her job or school; he was stalking her; and he had taken a pet from her.
In a written statement, she said her husband’s behavior was out of control and verbally abusive.
“I filed for divorce today after dealing with my husband’s affair. He became verbally violent & keeps throwing his fist like he is going to hit me & calling me a c---, whore, piece of s--- & told me I will need a PPO because I have no idea what I just started,” she wrote, referring to a personal protection order. “I asked him to be civil for a divorce & asked him to leave house & he refuses. I left & have been getting text accusing me of being with other people & he has now been texting my friends threatening them because he thinks they told me to leave him.”
Deputies had previously responded to calls involving the couple, Roscommon County Undersheriff Ben Lowe said Thursday. He cited the ongoing investigation and did not elaborate.
“It was a fairly lengthy relationship and we do have some prior calls. I’m not disclosing at this time what those calls were, or when they were,” Lowe said.
Bo Eugene Savage was listed as a sex offender in the Michigan state registry. The registry said that man was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2005.
Savage was initially charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and ultimately pleaded guilty and was convicted in the fourth-degree, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. He was given a year of probation by the courts. Savage has not had any supervision by the department of corrections since 2006 when he discharged from probation, a department representative said.
Once his probation ended, Savage remained classified as a sex offender, and was subject to annual checks by the Michigan State Police, according to the department of corrections.
Michigan lacks red flag laws
Renee Beeker, the founder and president of the National Family Court Watch Project, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization that observes family court proceedings in several states, said domestic violence cases in which an order of protection is sought but not always granted is not uncommon. But when the decision leads to a tragic outcome, she said, there must be accountability.
"I think that every judge who has something like this come up before them needs to take a moment, step back and err on the side of protection," Beeker said. "What's it going to cost that judge to just grant the order? Yes, there might be some situations where the order is unnecessary, but this does not appear to be one of them. What she wrote in that request is alarming and it shows what happens when judges don't believe women."
Beeker said the case also warrants a re-examination in Michigan of the creation of an extreme risk protection order law, also known as red flag laws. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books that allow authorities to confiscate a firearm from a person who may be a danger to themselves or others.
In February, Democrats in Michigan's Senate filed legislation that would allow a judge to issue an order to temporarily remove a gun from someone who has threatened harm as well as prohibit them from buying a new weapon during that time. The related bills, however, have not moved in the GOP-held Senate, and prior legislation has routinely stalled.
"Anybody can buy a firearm in Michigan. It takes like 10 minutes," said state Sen. Rosemary Bayer, who sponsored one of the red flag bills and co-chairs the Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Caucus. "And this is not the first time this happens in a domestic violence situation. It happens a lot, and police can't do anything. How can we continue to ignore this?"
Bayer has pushed for such gun control following cases in her district of suicide by guns and in the wake of a mass shooting in November at Oxford High School in her suburban Detroit county. In June, President Joe Biden signed landmark gun legislation that includes offering grants to states that implement a red flag law.
But critics of such laws say they can infringe on a person's constitutional rights before they are convicted of a crime. A spokesman for Michigan Senate Republicans could not immediately be reached for comment about the legislation.
The office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, did not respond to a request for comment Friday about efforts to adopt a red flag law, although she has previously expressed support. Her office also did not respond to a request for comment about the Savage case. Whitmer appointed Daniel, a private practice attorney, as judge in the 82nd District Court in March to fill a vacancy. Daniel is running for election for the seat in November.
Multiple attempts to reach Daniel for comment were unsuccessful. A representative of the 34th Circuit Court declined comment on behalf of the court and said Daniel was unavailable for an interview because of the ongoing law enforcement investigation.
Gallagher, who's been practicing law since 1984, said guns can be all too common in domestic violence situations. She pointed to another case she's handling where a man threatened to hold a gun to his partner's head and his own if she left him. And her office is connected to another murder-suicide that happened within the last month.
"I don't have a crystal ball and I don't know what would have prevented" Savage's death, she said. But a red flag law may have allowed authorities to better handle the situation, she added.
"OK, you're getting a divorce, you're making threats to hurt yourself and you went and bought a gun," Gallagher said. "This should be a red flag. Someone should check on him."
"These are some of the most dangerous situations women are in," she added. "Women are so much more vulnerable in transition."