‘This is one of the most horrific set of facts I have ever heard,’ judge says
A former professor at a women-only liberal arts college in Massachusetts has been sentenced to between 10 and 12 years in prison after torturing a colleague over unrequited love.
Rie Hachiyanagi previously taught at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley and was sentenced on Wednesday after changing her plea on Friday to plead guilty to nine charges following the four-hour-long torture of fellow professor Lauret Savoy on 23 December 2019, during which Hachiyanagi used a rock, a fire poker, and pruning shears to torment her victim.
The assistant Northwestern District Attorney, Matthew Thomas, said in court that the attack left Dr Savoy with permanent injuries.
Franklin County Superior Court Judge Francis Flannery said during a hearing on Wednesday that he thought about the charging decision in the “troubling case” for several days.
“This is one of the most horrific set of facts I have ever heard,” he said, according to the Greenfield Recorder.
“I have this defendant who tried to torture to death over four hours someone who wasn’t an enemy, but was a friend,” Judge Flannery added, WWLP reported.
Prosecutors have said that the 50-year-old Hachiyanagi knocked on the door of Dr Savoy on 23 December 2019 requesting emotional support following a breakup. When Dr Savoy allowed Hachiyanagi to enter the home, she attacked Dr Savoy, torturing and mocking her for four hours.
Mr Thomas described the ordeal as “random savagery” and said Hachiyanagi used her position of trust that she had with Dr Savoy to gain access to her home. The professor finally managed to convince Hachiyanagi to call for help, but Dr Savoy was left with mental and physical trauma, some of which is permanent.
“Professor Savoy is certainly a victim of a horrific crime, but that’s not what I’m going to remember,” Judge Flannery said, according to WWLP. “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.”
Hachiyanagi was teaching art at the school, focusing on installation, performance, and papermaking. Dr Savoy is a professor of environmental studies and geology.
Prosecutors say Hachiyanagi told Dr Savoy that she had been in love with her and became agitated, saying that Dr Savoy should have been aware of her feelings. While sitting on top of Dr Savoy as she was on the floor, Hachiyanagi mocked her injuries, which included broken bones, fractures in her face, multiple stab wounds, as well as a major loss of blood. Hachiyanagi reportedly told Dr Savoy that she was probably going to die. The attacker noted that she was wearing gloves and that she would probably get away with the violent crime.
After lying about having romantic feelings for Hachiyanagi, Dr Savoy managed to convince her to call emergency services, the Recorder reported.
“I’ve struggled to find a word that could hold in its meaning both the attack and my experience of it,” Dr Savoy said in a statement in court on Friday. “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 added according to a press release from the Northwestern District Attorney.
“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,” Dr Savoy said.
“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,” she added.
The DA said that during the hearing on Friday, 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”.