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Former Mount Holyoke College Professor Sentenced After Pleading Guilty To Brutal Attack On Colleague

In December 2019, Rie Hachiyanagi professed her love for Lauret Savoy, then attacked her using a fire poker, rock, and pruning shears to engage in what prosecutors called a “four-hour torture session.”

By Kevin Dolak
Rie Hachiyanagi

A former professor at a prestigious Massachusetts liberal arts college has been sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison this week for a brutal four-hour attack on a fellow professor after the end of a separate romantic relationship.

Former Mount Holyoke College arts professor Rie Hachiyanagi, 50, was handed the sentence on Wednesday after she pleaded guilty in Franklin Superior Court last week to nine charges related to the December 2019 attack on her former colleague, Lauret Savoy; the charges included three counts of armed assault with intent to murder a person over 60, mayhem, and multiple assault counts, as was outlined by Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Matthew Thomas at an Oct. 15 change of plea hearing.

Hachiyanagi and Savoy were both professors at Mount Holyoke when Hachiyanagi “emerged from the dark,” according to Savoy, at the victim’s home on Dec. 23, 2019. Hachiyanagi was distressed over an unrelated recent breakup and after Savoy invited her inside her home, Hachiyanagi attacked her, using a fire poker, rock, and pruning shears to engage in what prosecutors called a “four-hour torture session.”

During the attack, Hachiyanagi allegedly professed her intense feelings for the geology professor, claiming she’d loved her for years. Savoy told police that during her grueling hours of torture, she pretended to love Hachiyanagi back in order to convince her attacker to call 911 for help. 

When police arrived, Hachiyanagi painted herself as Savoy’s savior who had called for help, claiming she stopped by to bring her friend poinsettias and found her beaten inside her home, according to the police report. Upon arrival, officers found Savoy with broken bones and several non-life-threatening puncture wounds. Hachiyanagi claimed that she found Savoy “barely breathing” and cited an unknown intruder as the woman’s assailant.

In court last week, Savoy read an emotional statement detailing the extent of her injuries and the pain and terror she experienced at the hands of Hachiyanagi.

“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 told the court. “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.” 

Savoy told responders at that time that once Hachiyanagi was inside, Hachiyanagi began punching her head before using foreign objects to beat her. She told police that Hachiyanagi had told her she had loved her for many years and that Savoy should have known.

Hachiyanagi’s defense attorney, Thomas Kokonowski, claimed in court last week that his client had struggled with anger management but had made efforts to correct her behavior. He told the court that she has thus far been a model prisoner and recommended a sentence of five to seven years in prison for her crimes.

At sentencing this week, Judge Francis Flannery said that he believes the attack on Savoy was the “most horrific set of facts I’ve heard,” the New York Post reported; he praised Savoy’s courage amid the brutal hours-long ordeal to convince Hachiyanagi not to commit murder. 

“Professor Savoy is certainly a victim of a horrific crime, but that’s not what I’m going to remember,” Flannery said. “I’m going to remember that she had the presence of mind and the courage to convince her attacker not to kill her. As her body was failing her, she used her mind to save herself. That’s remarkable.”

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