Woman pleads guilty in brutal 2019 attack on colleague

Judge sets sentencing for next week
Rie Hachiyanagi pleads guilty to charges stemming from assault on colleague

GREENFIELD  –  Former Mount Holyoke College Professor Rie Hachiyanagi pleaded guilty  to nine charges stemming from December 2019 attack that left a Mount Holyoke College colleague with permanent injuries.

Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Matthew Thomas outlined the case to Judge Francis Flannery in a change of plea hearing Friday, Oct. 15.  The judge set a sentencing hearing for Oct 20 at 10:30 a.m.

In court, Thomas explained that Hachiyanagi, 50, knocked on the door of the victim’s home, claiming to be in need of emotional support over a breakup. When the homeowner let her in, Hachiyanagi attacked her, bludgeoning  her with a rock, a fire poker and pruning shears, all the while taunting her in a four-hour torture session until the victim finally managed to convince Hachiyanagi to summon help.  The attack left the victim with long-lasting emotional trauma and severe physical trauma, some of which is permanent.

Lauret Savoy, the victim of the attack, addressed the court in an emotional statement detailing the extent of her injuries and the pain and terror she experienced that night, with impacts on all areas of her life that continue into today.

“I’ve struggled to find a word that could hold in its meaning both the attack and my experience of it.  The closest I found is this: ‘severe or excruciating pain or suffering (of body or mind); anguish, agony, torment; the infliction of such.’ This is a definition of torture.  For four hours I experienced 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, she said. “The emotional, physical, financial, and professional impacts of this crime have been huge and they continue.  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.” 

In Friday’s hearing, Hachiyanagi pleaded guilty to: three counts of armed assault with intent to murder a person over 60; three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person over 60; and one count each of home invasion, mayhem and entering in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony.

ADA Thomas recommended a sentence of 10-12 years in state prison on the armed assault and mayhem charges, and concurrent 7-9 years in state prison on the assault and battery charges, followed by three years on probation with an order to stay away from the victim and wear an ankle monitoring device for the first year as well as mental health evaluation and counseling. In support of this recommendation, ADA Thomas argued there were several aggravating factors, including that Hachiyanagi: used a position of trust to get into the victim’s home when she appealed for help; physically abused the victim with “random savagery” over a period of four hours; taunted her about her injuries, saying she was likely to die; told the victim she was wearing gloves so as not to be discovered.

“Your Honor, I ask for accountability and justice, please.  I do not speak or act vindictively, nor do I ever want to cross that line.  Respect of and for other human beings matters a great deal to me. It’s difficult to fathom why this happened…All I know is that she betrayed my trust, invaded my home, and tried to kill me with premeditated violence.  The cruelty she wielded with weapons, and expressed in words, was extreme,” Savoy stated.

Defense Attorney Thomas Kokonowski recommended a sentence of 5-7 years in state prison followed by probation, citing the defendant’s lack of prior record, that she struggles with anger issues that she has been working on and noting that she has been a model prisoner during her incarceration.

Judge Flannery accepted Hachiyanagi’s change of plea and said he wanted to consider each of the attorneys’ recommendations before imposing a sentence.  He revoked the defendant’s bail pending sentencing next week.

Criminal charges are based on probable cause to believe a person has committed a crime.

All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court.