Lovelorn Arts Prof Imprisoned for Butchering Colleague With Fire Poker

Screenshot/WWLP via YouTube
Screenshot/WWLP via YouTube

A professor at a New England liberal arts college for women, who used a fire poker, rock, and pruning shears to torture a colleague for hours, was sentenced on Wednesday to at least a decade in prison.

Rie Hachiyanagi, 50, an art professor at Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, pleaded guilty in Franklin County Superior Court on Friday to nine charges in connection with the attack on fellow professor Lauret Savoy at Savoy’s home, according to Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan.

After the change of plea hearing last week, Judge Francis Flannery recessed the court until Wednesday morning, where he sentenced Hachiyanagi to 10 to 12 years in state prison.

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Hachiyanagi appeared at Savoy’s home late at night on Dec. 23, 2019, and claimed she was seeking emotional support after a breakup.

After Savoy opened the door, Hachiyanagi bludgeoned her, held her in what prosecutors called a “four-hour torture session” that continued into the early hours of Christmas Eve, and allegedly told Savoy she had loved her for years and Savoy should have known her feelings.

In an impact statement shared in court, Savoy, who taught geology and environmental studies, said that she suffered “literal torture of body and of mind, not knowing if I would survive the next minute—yet needing to find some way to save my life.”

Savoy said that Hachiyanagi told her she would not live much longer after remarking on how much blood she had lost, according to the Greenfield Recorder, and continued to watch her bleed, while taunting her and telling her she would be blinded and disfigured before she was killed.

“She betrayed my trust, invaded my home, and tried to kill me with premeditated violence,” Savoy said. “The cruelty she wielded with weapons, and expressed in words, was extreme.”

According to prosecutors, Savoy sustained stab and puncture wounds, in addition to broken bones. Her face was fractured after Hachiyanagi restrained her and repeatedly punched her in an act of “random savagery.”

Savoy eventually persuaded Hachiyanagi to seek help, prosecutors said, but her trauma has endured.

“The emotional, physical, financial, and professional impacts of this crime have been huge and they continue,” Savoy said Friday. “Now the defendant’s violation of me is becoming part of a public persona that I did not choose. She has invaded my privacy, my career, my life.”

Hachiyanagi pleaded guilty to charges including three counts of armed assault to murder a person age 60 or older, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person age 60 or older, and single counts of mayhem, home invasion, and entering a dwelling at night for a felony, according to the district attorney’s office.

Her attorney, Thomas Kokonowski, had pushed for a shorter sentence of five to seven years that could be followed by probation. He reasoned that Hachiyanagi did not have a history of criminal offenses before attacking Savoy. He also argued that Hachiyanagi made efforts to manage her angry outbursts.

Hachiyanagi had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in February 2020 and had been held without bail at the Franklin County Jail following her arrest. Last month, a Franklin County Superior Court judge ruled that, with conditions, she could be released if $5,000 cash bail was posted. That bail was revoked after Hachiyanagi changed her plea on Friday.

The former professor began teaching at Mount Holyoke in 2004, and before the attack had taught in the school’s studio art, art history, and Asian studies departments.

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