Mount Holyoke professor accused of attempted murder

Published: 1/4/2020 1:37:24 PM
Modified: 1/4/2020 1:36:58 PM

ORANGE — A Mount Holyoke College professor was arraigned Friday after an alleged brutal assault against another faculty member with a rock, a fire poker and garden shears, according to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office and a college spokeswoman.

Rie Hachiyanagi, 48, of South Hadley, was arraigned in Orange District Court on charges related to an overnight incident between Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 in Leverett. She has been charged with armed assault with attempt to murder a person over the age of 60, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, mayhem, and armed assault in a dwelling.

According to Northwestern District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Mary Carey, whose office is investigating the incident, the reported female victim of the attack was seriously injured. A police report by State Trooper Geraldine L. Bresnahan states that 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.

Hachiyanagi is an art professor and art studio chair at Mount Holyoke College, where she has worked since 2004, according to her Mount Holyoke College web page.

College spokesperson Christian Feuerstein confirmed in a statement to the Gazette that the incident occurred between two faculty members. Hachiyanagi, Feuerstein said, “has been placed on administrative leave from the college and is not permitted on our campus pending further review of the incident. We will cooperate fully with law enforcement agencies in support of their ongoing investigations.”

“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,” she said.

According to Leverett Police Chief Scott Minckler, the incident happened overnight on Dec. 23. A 911 call came from the residence on Long Hill Road, prompting a response from State Police from the Northampton barracks and the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. Minckler said he became involved with the police response at the start of his shift the morning of Dec. 24, with local police, firefighters and EMTs also responding.

Officers first arrived at around 12:44 a.m. on Dec. 24, according to Bresnahan’s report. First responders were told Hachiyanagi called 911 to report locating her friend, the reported victim, at the victim’s residence “in a pool of blood” and “barely breathing, semi-conscious and with a head injury.” She also reported signs of a struggle.

Bresnahan’s report states that Hachiyanagi claimed to have been holding her friend, and that this was the reason for blood on her clothes. A search of the home found no signs of a third party.

In a recorded interview from Dec. 24, Hachiyanagi reportedly told police she had been driving that evening, but did not remember anything after 6 p.m. She said she has a medical history that includes multiple concussions that affect her memory.

Officers then spoke with the reported victim at Baystate Medical Center. According to Bresnahan’s report, she stated that Hachiyanagi caused her injuries.

In the victim’s version of events, Hachiyanagi arrived at her home unannounced stating she “wanted to talk about her feelings,” Bresnahan’s report reads. After being invited inside, Hachiyanagi allegedly attacked the woman, striking her with “multiple implements” including “fists, rocks, garden clippers and a fire poker.” All items were recovered by investigators.

The woman told officers she “thought she was going to die at the hands of Hachiyanagi.” According to the report, when she asked why Hachiyanagi was attacking her, Hachiyanagi allegedly responded “that she loved her for many years and she should have known.”

By “playing along” and lying that she had reciprocating feelings, the victim convinced Hachiyanagi to stop attacking and call 911, Bresnahan’s report states. The woman said she did not want to tell officers the identity of her assailant until she was taken from the scene for fear of her safety.

Police arrested Hachiyanagi at the Leverett residence at approximately 7 p.m. on Dec. 24. She was reportedly found to be in possession of the victim’s keys, cellphone and glasses.

Hachiyanagi is being held without bail at the Franklin County House of Correction. A dangerousness hearing is scheduled for Feb. 4 in Orange District Court.

Daily Hampshire Gazette reporter Jacquelyn Voghel contributed to this report.

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