Mt. Holyoke prof pleads guilty to attempted murder in 2019 assault; judge mulls sentencing

  • Rie Hachiyanagi watches Lauret Savoy read her victim impact statement in Franklin County Superior Court Friday morning in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rie Hachiyanagi, center, stands with her lawyers while pleading guilty in Franklin County Superior Court Friday morning in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rie Hachiyanagi answers a question from Judge Francis Flannery in Franklin County Superior Court on Friday in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Lauret Savoy, left, stands with Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas as she reads her victim impact statement in Franklin County Superior Court Friday morning in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/15/2021 4:35:03 PM

GREENFIELD — A Superior Court judge is mulling the sentencing of Rie Hachiyanagi after the Mount Holyoke College professor pleaded guilty Friday to nine charges stemming from a December 2019 incident in which she used a fire poker, a rock and pruning shears to attack a colleague in the victim’s Leverett home.

Judge Francis Flannery heard from the prosecution and the defense, and recessed the court session until 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Hachiyanagi, 50, of South Hadley, pleaded guilty 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. There is also an armed assault charge and an assault and battery charge related to each weapon Hachiyanagi used in the attack.

She had been held without bail at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction following her arrest, but Judge John Agostini ruled last month the defendant could be released on conditions if $5,000 cash bail was posted. However, Flannery revoked Hachiyanagi’s bail and she was taken back into custody after she changed her plea.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas, who is prosecuting the case, and defense attorney Thomas Kokonowski of Adams & Kokonowski Criminal Defense addressed Flannery and made their recommendations for sentencing before Lauret Savoy read her victim impact statement. The prosecution recommends one to 12 years behind bars for each armed assault to murder charge, seven to nine years for each assault and battery charge, 10 to 12 years for the mayhem charge, and three years’ probation for home invasion and entering a dwelling at night for a felony. The defense agreed to the probation, but recommends five to seven years in prison for each other count.

Savoy, joined in the courtroom by dozens of supporters, read an impact statement in which she described the physical and emotional scars she sustained as a result of the four-hour attack that started late at night on Dec. 23, 2019, and continued into the early hours of Dec. 24.

The Mount Holyoke geology and environmental studies professor recalled the assault with excruciating detail and explained the physical trauma she still deals with. She said her face has patches of nerve damage and, as a result of fighting off the attack, two of her fingers do not work properly. She said she also experiences difficulty sleeping, suffers from frequent nightmares and has daily headaches.

Savoy said Hachiyanagi, who she had considered a dear friend, repeatedly taunted her during the attack, telling her she would be blinded and disfigured before her murder. She also said Hachiyanagi, noticing the blood loss Savoy had sustained, told her victim she did not have much longer to live and then watched her bleed more.

Hachiyanagi also reportedly mentioned she wore a double layer of cream-colored surgical gloves during the attack so as to not leave her fingerprints behind.

“She expected to get away with murder — my murder,” the victim said.

Savoy said she also has suffered financially because insurance has not covered all of her medical bills and she has spent money on a home security system and post-traumatic stress disorder therapy. She also said she has not been able to return to her teaching position and that she had entered into a book contract just months before the assault. She said she has lost significant income in having to turn down at least 30 professional opportunities since the attack.

“This professional coma has been devastating,” Savoy said.

Thomas explained Savoy has received numerous get-well cards that she has assembled in the crime scene in an attempt to make it a place of healing. He expressed his fondness and admiration for Savoy, and said Hachiyanagi must be punished for the attack and for robbing the world of Savoy’s literary voice.

Kokonowski told Flannery there is “not a bad side to” Savoy, who he described as a “beautiful and loving and spiritual person.” And while he stressed there was no excuse for the attack, he said his client has no criminal record and was likely triggered by stress at work and a painful breakup. Kokonowski also said Hachiyanagi was taught at a very early age that anger is shameful.

“My client had an anger that she was not familiar with,” Kokonowski said. “She was distraught, to say the least.”

He said Hachiyanagi has been a model prisoner and serves as a peer leader there. Kokonowski said his client has written an apology, but he agreed the timing was not appropriate to hear it.

Earlier in the hearing, Thomas showed the court photographs of the bloody crime scene and of a wounded Savoy. He said Hachiyanagi showed up at the victim’s home unannounced late at night and lurked in the shadows until Savoy saw something and asked who it was.

Hachiyanagi then reportedly revealed herself and said she wanted to talk about her feelings. But when Savoy invited her inside and turned her back to Hachiyanagi, the defendant unleashed a vicious attack while telling the victim she had loved her for years and she should have known that.

Savoy suffered bone breaks and a fracture in her face, many stab and puncture wounds, and significant blood loss. Thomas said Hachiyanagi even straddled the victim on the floor and repeatedly punched her.

Savoy was reportedly able to stop the attack and convince Hachiyanagi to call 911 by lying about having reciprocating feelings for her. Hachiyanagi reportedly portrayed herself to responding state troopers as Savoy’s savior, but her account of what happened quickly unraveled and she was arrested.

Hachiyanagi’s attempted third-party defense in court crumbled once Savoy found the bloodied surgical gloves from the attack hidden in a pair of shorts months after the attack.

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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