Mount Holyoke College professor continues to be held without bail

  • Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas, defense attorney Tom Kokonowski and defendant Rie Hachiyanagi in Franklin County Superior Court on Feb. 12. She will continue to be held without the right to bail while awaiting trial, following an extension of the judge’s February decision. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Defendant Rie Hachiyanagi is led into Franklin County Superior Court on Feb. 12. She will continue to be held without the right to bail while awaiting trial, following an extension of the judge’s February decision. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2020 1:02:10 PM

GREENFIELD — The Mount Holyoke College professor accused of using a rock, fire poker and garden shears to attack a colleague in the alleged victim’s home late last year will continue to be held without the right to bail while awaiting trial.

Rie Hachiyanagi, 49, of South Hadley, was originally ordered to be held without bail by Judge Mark D. Mason in February after pleading not guilty in Franklin County Superior Court to 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 Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas, who is prosecuting the case, state law allows for a defendant to be held without bail for up to six months if a judge deems the person so dangerous that no conditions of release will satisfy public safety. He explained a recent case allowed for this time to be extended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The judge recently decided the severity of Hachiyanagi’s case warranted an extension.

Hachiyanagi’s next hearing is slated for November.

Thomas said Hachiyanagi’s defense argued that developments in the investigation, including the discovery of bloody gloves in early summer, was a material change in circumstances. However, Thomas said he argued this was not a material change and actually corroborated the victim’s account of what happened.

According to a report from State Trooper Geraldine L. Bresnahan, the alleged victim told police Hachiyanagi arrived at her Leverett home unannounced late at night on Dec. 23 and said she “wanted to talk about her feelings.” After being invited inside, Hachiyanagi allegedly attacked the victim, striking her with “fists, rocks, garden clippers and a fire poker” in an attack that lasted until the early hours of Dec. 24.

Bresnahan states the State Police Crime Scene Services’ attending physician Dr. Michael Zhou “offered a preliminary opinion that (the victim) was presented with multiple broken bones in (her) nose and eye area, and numerous lacerations and puncture wounds on (her) head and face.” Zhou did not consider the injuries life-threatening.

The alleged victim told authorities she believed Hachiyanagi was going to kill her. According to the report, when the victim asked why Hachiyanagi was attacking her, the assailant allegedly said “that she loved her for many years and (she) should have known.” Bresnahan’s report also states the victim convinced Hachiyanagi to stop the attack and call 911 by “playing along” and lying about having reciprocating feelings.

At a dangerousness hearing in February, Hachiyanagi’s attorney, Thomas Kokonowski, argued that there were discrepancies in the alleged victim’s statements to police and in the grand jury minutes. He said Hachiyanagi has no prior criminal record or history of violent behavior. He said his client must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and he finds it difficult to believe his client would have the mentality of “I love you, therefore, I’m going to kill you.”

Kokonowski also mentioned an “hours-long struggle” was described in the police report and he finds it is strange the alleged victim, reportedly a trained martial artist, “couldn’t land a blow of consequence” in self-defense.

Hachiyanagi is an art professor at Mount Holyoke College, where she has worked since 2004, according to her Mount Holyoke College web page. She specializes in installation, performance and papermaking. The college’s websites states she is “on leave.” Thomas said Hachiyanagi is suspended without pay.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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