Mount Holyoke professor accused of attacking colleague over unrequited love

LEVERETT, Mass. — A Mount Holyoke art professor is accused of going to a fellow professor’s home over Christmas break and attacking the woman with a rock, a fireplace poker and garden shears out of unrequited love, according to court documents.

Rie Hachiyanagi, 48, of South Hadley, is charged with armed assault to murder a person older than 60, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, one count of mayhem and one count of armed assault in a dwelling. According to Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan’s office, Hachiyanagi was arraigned on the charges Friday.

The victim, whose name has been redacted from police reports to protect her identity, is expected to survive, but she suffered severe injuries, Sullivan said in a news release.

The woman is not a member of the art faculty and it was not clear how well she and Hachiyanagi know one another, though the victim told investigators she’d known Hachiyanagi since August 2005.

The victim told state troopers she and Hachiyanagi have never been romantically involved and that Hachiyanagi was in a long-term relationship with a man, according to court documents.

Watch and listen to Rie Hachiyanagi speak about her work below in a 2012 video from Mount Holyoke.

Both professors were on winter break when the attack took place, according to a spokeswoman for Mount Holyoke, a women’s college about 12 miles north of Springfield in South Hadley. Christian Feuerstein told the Boston Globe that Hachiyanagi has been placed on administrative leave.

“This individual … is not permitted on our campus pending further review of the incident,” Feuerstein said in a statement. “We will cooperate fully with law enforcement agencies in support of their ongoing investigations.”

Mount Holyoke President Sonya Stephens also addressed the incident with students and faculty, without divulging either professor’s name, Friday, the same day Hachiyanagi was arraigned.

“We take very seriously the safety and well-being of every member of our community and the college is providing support to impacted parties as appropriate,” Stephens said in an emailed statement obtained by the campus newspaper, Mount Holyoke News.

‪Mount Holyoke students are receiving word from College President Sonya Stephens that a faculty member is in the...

Posted by The Mount Holyoke News on Friday, January 3, 2020

The newspaper reported that Hachiyanagi, a native of Japan, has been a member of the school’s faculty since 2004. A professor in art, art history and Asian studies over the years, she is currently chair of the college’s Art Studio, or art department.

She is also an installation, performance and papermaking artist, according to her biography on the school’s website.

A criminal complaint filed by Massachusetts State Trooper Geraldine Bresnahan indicates that police were called to the victim’s home in Leverett, located about 16 miles north of campus, just after midnight Christmas Eve. Hachiyanagi was the person who called 911.

The responding officers arrived to find both Hachiyanagi and the victim lying on the floor of the home’s foyer. Though Hachiyanagi was uninjured, the other woman was “barely breathing, semi-conscious and with a head injury,” Bresnahan’s statement reads.

Hachiyanagi told the officers she had arrived for previously agreed upon plans with the victim to find her beaten and lying in a pool of blood. The officers searched the house, multiple outbuildings and the property for an assailant, with no results, the complaint says.

At that point, the victim, who was able to speak, told the troopers she had lost her glasses in the attack and did not know the gender or anything else about the person who had attacked her.

Her statements would change drastically when she was at the hospital -- and away from Hachiyanagi, according to court documents.

Read the arrest report and criminal complaint against Rie Hachiyanagi below.

The woman was taken to Baystate Medical Center, where she was treated for multiple fractures to her face around her nose and eyes, as well as slash and puncture wounds to her head and face, Bresnahan’s statement says.

Bresnahan and another trooper met with the victim about three and a half hours after they initially responded to her home. By that point, her eyes were purple and swollen shut.

As she lay on a gurney, a cervical spine collar around her neck, she told the investigators what she said really happened.

According to the criminal complaint, the victim said Hachiyanagi showed up at her home around 10 a.m. Dec. 23, unannounced, with a poinsettia plant. Despite the pair having been friends and colleagues for 14 years, it was the first time Hachiyanagi had ever been to the woman’s home, she said.

“She later saw Ms. Hachiyanagi a second time, on the college campus in South Hadley, at approximately (4 p.m.),” the document says. “(Redacted) reported that their conversation was benign and the pair parted ways with the understanding that they would speak again in the New Year.

“(Redacted) was adamant that she did not make plans with Ms. Hachiyanagi (for) later in the evening.”

The victim told police she returned to her home around 8 p.m., at which point she thought she saw a shadow move on her deck. She asked who was there, and Hachiyanagi emerged from the darkness.

“According to (redacted), Ms. Hachiyanagi stated that she really missed her and wanted to talk with her about feelings,” the complaint says. “Ms. (redacted) encouraged her friend to enter the residence.”

The woman said she turned her back to Hachiyanagi and was less than a foot inside the front door when she felt “something hard” strike her on the head. Stunned by the blow, she fell to the floor, where Hachiyanagi continued hitting her in the head.

“When (redacted) asked her attacker why she was assaulting her, Ms. Hachiyanagi reportedly said that she loved her for many years and that she (redacted) should have known,” Bresnahan’s statement says.

The woman, in an interview that lasted almost an hour, told the troopers she did, indeed, lose her glasses during the assault, but that she could see well enough to tell it was Hachiyanagi striking her with a number of weapons: a rock, her fists, garden clippers and a fireplace poker.

All the items described by the victim were later found by investigators at the scene, the complaint says.

“(Redacted) stated that she thought she was going to die at the hands of Ms. Hachiyanagi,” the document states. “In an effort to appear sympathetic to her attacker, (redacted) reported that she lied and told Ms. Hachiyanagi that she really did love her.”

That appeared to calm Hachiyanagi down for a while, the woman told detectives.

That’s when the fireplace poker became Hachiyanagi’s new weapon, the woman said.

Hachiyanagi told her during the attack that if she let the woman go, she would go to police and Hachiyanagi would be jailed, the document says. Hachiyanagi told her she would kill herself if she went to jail.

The victim continued “playing along” with Hachiyanagi, however, and was able to persuade her to call 911.

“(Redacted) was very upfront that she did not tell anyone who responded to the scene or initial treating medical personnel that Ms. Hachiyanagi was the attacker,” the complaint says. “(She) reported that she was terrified that Ms. Hachiyanagi would harm her again or even burn down her residence.

“She also reported that she was afraid that Ms. Hachiyanagi would arrive at the hospital to bring her (redacted) her glasses, cellphone and house keys.”

When Hachiyanagi was arrested at the victim’s home around 7 a.m. Christmas Eve, all those items were found on her, the criminal complaint says.

In her own interview conducted hours earlier at the scene, Hachiyanagi claimed that she reached out to the victim after her longtime boyfriend left the state to visit family for the holidays. She said she feared he planned to end their relationship.

Hachiyanagi told the troopers she rented a Toyota Rav4, despite having a functioning vehicle of her own, the morning of Dec. 23 because it was an SUV.

“It rode higher off the ground and it made her feel alive,” the trooper’s statement quoted Hachiyanagi as saying.

Hachiyanagi admitted going to the victim’s home that morning with a plant, but said she dropped the poinsettia off and left.

She also claimed she went to the victim’s home “to give (her) emotional support as she was still waiting to hear about a possible cancer diagnosis.”

The complaint did not say if the victim was indeed awaiting word on a potential diagnosis.

Hachiyanagi gave a very detailed account of her day, including returning the Rav4 around 1 p.m. and seeing the victim at Mount Holyoke that afternoon, but told troopers that she didn’t remember anything after about 6 p.m., when she went to a martial arts studio in Amherst.

She said she sat in the parking lot outside the studio, where her boyfriend reportedly teaches, for a while, thinking about their relationship. Hachiyanagi claimed she didn’t remember anything after pulling out of the lot.

“Ms. Hachiyanagi alleged that her medical history, which included multiple concussions, affected her memory,” the complaint says.

The most recent concussion occurred in a June car crash, she told investigators.

One of the performance pieces listed as part of Hachiyanagi’s portfolio, called Ritual for RED, is described as “a re-enactment of the lost memories suffered from a severe auto accident.”

Hachiyanagi was adamant that she found her friend beaten and bloodied when she’d arrived at the home that night. She explained blood on her own clothing by saying she’d held the badly wounded woman in her arms.

She also insisted that the victim told her she’d been attacked by an unknown person.

Hachiyanagi confirmed that she was the 911 caller who reported the assault but told troopers “her phone allegedly fell in the toilet during the call, and that accounted for why she was initially disconnected from State Police dispatch,” the court documents allege.

Hachiyanagi is a renowned artist known for incorporating handmade paper in her work, according to Mount Holyoke. A 2017 blurb on the college’s website and a 2012 article in the Globe both reported she first came to the United States in 1988 as a high school exchange student.

She decided to become an artist after having to use sketching to communicate in the Kansas community in which she was placed. According to the 2012 Globe story, she was also asked to paint a homecoming mural at the high school.

After deciding on her 18th birthday to study art, she never returned to live in Japan, the Globe reported.

Hachiyanagi is being held at the Franklin County House of Correction without bail. Her next court hearing in Orange District Court is scheduled for Feb. 4, according to prosecutors.

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