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Crime News

Art Professor Allegedly Used A Fire Poker To Nearly Beat Colleague, And Supposed Crush, To Death Day Before Christmas

Rie Hachiyanagi, a professor at Massachusetts' Mount Holyoke College, is accused of using her “fists, rocks, garden clippers” and a “fire poker” against a fellow faculty member in a bizarre Christmas Eve incident.

By Dorian Geiger

A professor at a prestigious Massachusetts liberal arts college is accused of clubbing another faculty member with a fire poker in a vicious attack in the early hours of Christmas Eve.

Rie Hachiyanagi, a professor at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, gifted a colleague a poinsettia before brutally beating her hours later with a fire poker at a rural Massachusetts home on Dec. 24, according to an arrest report obtained by Oxygen.com.

The 48-year-old has been charged with attempted murder of a person over 60, mayhem, and multiple counts of assault in the alleged attack, prosecutors said
State troopers received a phone call from an address in the town of Leverett, Massachusetts around 12:44 a.m. on Dec. 24 regarding a possible home invasion and assault. When authorities arrived, they found Hachiyanagi lying beside the home’s occupant, who was suffering from “multiple broken bones,” as well as several puncture wounds.

Hachiyanagi, who identified herself as the person who made the emergency call, said she had stopped by her colleague’s home when she discovered the woman was “barely breathing,” having been attacked by an unknown perpetrator. Hachiyanagi said she had seen her co-worker twice earlier that day — once at her home to drop off the poinsettia plant and later on at their college campus, about a 15-minute drive away. The Japanese academic claimed her co-worker was a friend awaiting a “cancer diagnosis” and that she'd previously delivered a Christmas floral arrangement to her home to cheer her up.

Rie Hachiyanagi

However, the 60-year-old woman later implicated Hachiyanagi as her assailant, according to authorities.

As the woman lay strapped to a hospital gurney, with her eyes bruised and swollen shut, she told detectives that Hachiyanagi unexpectedly “emerged from the darkness” outside her home on the night of the attack. When the woman invited her co-worker inside, Hachiyanagi sprung from the shadows and hit her on the back of the head with “something hard,” she said. After landing on the floor inside her home, the woman told police Hachiyanagi assaulted her with a barrage of punches to her head. Police said Hachiyanagi pummeled her with rocks, and also used a pair of garden sheers in the berserk attack.

When the woman asked Hachiyanagi why she was hurting her, the college professor allegedly replied, “that she loved her for many years and that she should have known.”

The victim told police she then lied, falsely confessing her love for Hachiyanagi in an attempt to save her life, at which point the art professor momentarily calmed down. But then Hachiyanagi allegedly clubbed her supposed crush with a fire poker. The victim eventually convinced Hachiyanagi to dial 911. The woman, who police said was “terrified” Hachiyanagi would try to burn down her home or attack her again, initially didn’t tell medical responders who assaulted her. Her injuries weren’t deemed life-threatening, police said. The victim told law enforcement that Hachiyanagi also claimed she’d commit suicide if she went to jail in the aftermath of the alleged attack. 

Police later arrested Hachiyanagi in Leverett, about 95 miles west of Boston. She allegedly was in possession of the woman’s cell phone, glasses, and her keys. 

Despite her supposed crush on her co-worker, Hachiyanagi had previously admitted to police to being in a deteriorating relationship with a male martial arts instructor. She told police he was visiting family out of state at the time of the alleged assault.  

Christian Feuerstein, a spokesperson for Mount Holyoke College, confirmed that Hachiyanagi has been placed on administrative leave and is indefinitely banned from the school’s campus. 

“During the winter recess, there was a serious incident involving two Mount Holyoke faculty members,” according to a school statement sent to Oxygen.com. “The incident occurred off-campus and resulted in the hospitalization of one faculty member who is receiving care.”

The spokesperson also stated that college officials are cooperating with investigators. 

Hachiyanagi is originally from Sapporo, Japan, according to her faculty profile. She attended high school in rural Kansas, and later earned fine arts degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. Prior to teaching at Mount Holyoke College, she taught at New York’s Alfred University. Hachiyanagi specialized in installationperformance art, and achieved some notoriety as a bamboo paper-maker.

"In this age of craziness and fascination with newness, we should appreciate that as time goes by, something old becomes something beautiful and graceful," she said in a school interview in 2011. "I find that very inspiring. Paper is one of the rare objects that gains beauty over time."

Her art, inspired by ancient Chinese thinkers, Haiku poets, and contemporary Japanese authors, often dissected cultural stereotypes, racism, feminist attitudes, and focused on the “absurd conflicts among urges, necessities, and mortality." Brigham Young University in Utah once described her performance art as physically violent and "startling." During one of Hachiyanagi's shows in 2001, she supposedly draped herself in a kimono, wore white makeup and a wig, and continuously somersaulted for nearly an hour. A year earlier, the eccentric artist donned a suit and repeatedly ran into a wall in public. Hachiyanagi’s personal website also showcases a large spectrum of her eclectic work.

Hachiyanag is being held without bail in a Franklin County detention center, officials said. Her next court appearance is scheduled in Orange District Court on Feb. 4, 2020.