Mount Holyoke College professor pleads not guilty to attack on colleague

  • Defendant Rie Hachiyanagi, right, with her attorney Tom Kokonowski in Franklin County Superior Court on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Defendant Rie Hachiyanagi is led into Franklin County Superior Court on Feb. 12. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Attorney Tom Kokonowski and defendant Rie Hachiyanagi appear in Franklin County Superior Court on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Saturday, February 22, 2020

GREENFIELD — The Mount Holyoke College art professor accused of using a rock, a fire poker and garden shears to attack a colleague in the alleged victim’s home late last year was ordered held without bail Wednesday morning by Judge Mark D. Mason in Franklin County Superior Court.

Rie Hachiyanagi, 48, of South Hadley, pleaded not guilty last week 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.

Her attorney, Thomas Kokonowski, argued Wednesday that there were discrepancies in the alleged victim’s statements to police and in the grand jury minutes. He said Hachiyanagi owns a house and, if she were to be released on bail, conditions could be put in place to ensure public safety. He also said his client has no criminal record or history of violent behavior.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas, who is prosecuting the case, said Hachiyanagi is responsible for “a brutal and cunning attack” in which she coaxed a colleague to let her into her home late at night Dec. 23 under the guise of needing to talk during a difficult time in her life.

Hachiyanagi has worked at Mount Holyoke College since 2004, according to her college web page, which states her specialization is installation, performance and paper making. She is on unpaid leave during these legal proceedings and has been ordered not to step foot on the college’s campus.

Hachiyanag pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges in Franklin County Superior Court last week.

She had been arraigned in Orange District Court on Jan. 3, but the case was transferred to Superior Court because all the charges are felonies. 

A police report from Massachusetts State Trooper Geraldine L. Bresnahan states Crime Scene Services’ attending physician Dr. Michael Zhou “offered a preliminary opinion that (the victim) was prethe sented 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.

According to Leverett Police Chief Scott Minckler, the alleged incident happened overnight on Dec. 23. A 911 call from a residence on Leverett’s Long Hill Road prompted a response from State Police from the Northampton barracks and State Police assigned to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

Authorities arrived at around 12:44 a.m. on Dec. 24, according to Trooper Bresnahan’s report. First responders were told Hachiyanagi called 911 at 12:12 a.m. to report finding her friend, the alleged victim, “barely breathing, semi-conscious and with a head injury” in “a pool of blood” at the victim’s residence. She also reported signs of a struggle inside the home and said she found an exterior door partially opened.

Bresnahan’s report states Hachiyanagi told police that blood had gotten onto her clothing because she had held her friend in her arms when she found her. No signs of a third party were found during a search of the residence.

According to Bresnahan’s report, the victim said Hachiyanagi caused her injuries. She said Hachiyanagi arrived at her home unannounced stating she “wanted to talk about her feelings,” despite being in a long-term relationship with a man who was at the time out of state visiting family, Bresnahan’s report reads. After being invited inside, Hachiyanagi allegedly attacked the victim, striking her with “multiple implements” including “fists, rocks, garden clippers and a fire poker.” Investigators recovered all the items.

The alleged victim told authorities she thought Hachiyanagi was going to kill her. According to the report, when the victim asked why Hachiyanagi was attacking her, the assailant allegedly “that she loved her for many years and (she) should have known.”

By “playing along” and lying that she had reciprocating feelings, the victim persuaded Hachiyanagi to stop attacking and call 911, Bresnahan’s report states. The victim 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 found to be in possession of alleged victim’s keys, cellphone and eyeglasses.