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Judge sentences ex-college art professor, 50, to prison in torture case


The former Massachusetts college professor who nearly killed her colleague and supposed love interest by bludgeoning and torturing her for hours with a rock, garden shears and a fire poker was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 to 12 years in prison.

Rie Hachiyanagi, 50, pleaded guilty last week to nine charges relating to the December 24, 2019, attack on Lauret Savoy, including three counts of armed assault with intent to murder a person over 60, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person over 60 and one count each of home invasion, mayhem and entering in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony. 

Judge Francis Flannery took five days to consider the differing sentencing recommendations from the prosecution and defense, according to a press release from Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan’s office. 

During Wednesday’s hearing, he said he found the case ‘troubling’ because the defense presented evidence that Hachiyanagi was a respected peer, talented artist, good friend and kind person with no criminal record.

Hachiyanagi went to Lauret Savoy's (pictured) house asking for emotional support from a recent breakup when she assaulted her with a rock, garden shears and a fire poker

Rie Hachiyanagi (left) was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 to 12 years in prison for attacking colleague Lauret Savoy (right) during a ‘four-hour torture session’ on Christmas Eve 2019

‘But on the other hand, I have this defendant who tried to torture to death over four hours someone who wasn’t an enemy, but was a friend,’ Flannery said in court. 

He added that he needed to hear an explanation that would help him understand the problem that caused such behavior in order to know how it could be fixed.

‘But I still don’t understand. I still don’t see an adequate explanation for what happened,’ said the judge. ‘This is one of the most horrific set of facts I’ve heard and I’m a superior court judge.’

Judge Francis Flannery said he could find no explanation for Hachiyanagi's actions and said he'd been tempted to exceed the prosecution's sentencing recommendation

Judge Francis Flannery said he could find no explanation for Hachiyanagi’s actions and said he’d been tempted to exceed the prosecution’s sentencing recommendation

Flannery admitted that he had been tempted to exceed the prosecution’s recommended sentence of 10-to-12 years in prison, instead of handing down a sentence somewhere in the middle of the two divergent recommendations. 

Defense Attorney Thomas Kokonowski had recommended a sentence of 5-7 years in state prison followed by probation, citing Hachiyanagi’s lack of prior record, that she struggles with anger issues that she has been working on and noting that she has been a model prisoner during her 20 months in jail, for which she will receive credit. 

After imposing what he described as the prosecution’s ‘restrained’ recommended sentence, Judge Flannery offered words of praise for Savoy, who was present in the courtroom. 

Savoy was said to have suffered long-lasting emotional trauma and severe physical trauma, some of which is permanent. 

‘Professor Savoy is certainly a victim of a horrific crime, but that’s not what I’m going to remember,’ he said. ‘I’m going to remember that she had the presence of mind and the courage to convince her attacker not to kill her.  

‘As her body was failing her, she used her mind to save herself. That’s remarkable.’ 

The former college art professor reportedly confessed her love for Savoy – who was a geology professor – as she beat her. At the time, they worked at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. 

Hachiyanagi's defense attorney Thomas Kokonowski (left) acknowledged in court on Friday that his client has struggled with anger issues but insisted that she has since made efforts to correct them and should only be sentenced to five to seven years

Hachiyanagi’s defense attorney Thomas Kokonowski (left) acknowledged in court on Friday that his client has struggled with anger issues but insisted that she has since made efforts to correct them and should only be sentenced to five to seven years

Two years ago, Hachiyanagi knocked on Savoy’s door claiming to be distressed and needing emotional support after a recent breakup, Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Matthew Thomas said in court during a change of plea hearing on Friday.

Savoy let her in and when she turned her back, was attacked by Hachiyanagi in what the victim called a ‘four-hour torture session’.    

Hachiyanagi reportedly straddled the Savoy as she told her that she ‘had loved (her) for years’. Savoy later told cops that the pair had met in August of 2005 and were simply friends.

But Hachiyanagi punched the geology professor, saying she should have known about her stronger feelings. She also taunted Savoy by repeatedly telling her that she would be blinded, disfigured and then murdered.

Savoy told police she pretended to love Hachiyanagi back during the assault in hopes of persuading her to call 911. 

After four hours, she finally succeeded and convinced Hachiyanagi to call for help just after midnight on Christmas Eve.

On Friday – two years after the traumatic attack – Savoy told the court of the emotional and physical fallout she has been dealing with since.

‘I’ve struggled to find a word that could hold in its meaning both the attack and my experience of it,’ she said, according to WWLP. 

The women were professors at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts (pictured) when they met in August of 2005. Savoy said they were simply friends

 The women were professors at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts (pictured) when they met in August of 2005. Savoy said they were simply friends

Savoy added: ‘The closest I found is this: “Severe or excruciating pain or suffering (of body or mind); anguish, agony, torment; the infliction of such.” This is a definition of torture. 

‘For four hours I experienced literal torture of body and of mind, not knowing if I would survive the next minute – yet needing to find some way to save my life. The emotional, physical, financial and professional impacts of this crime have been huge and they continue. 

‘Now the defendant’s violation of me is becoming part of a public persona that I did not choose. She has invaded my privacy, my career, my life.’

Savoy also told the court that she suffered nerve damage to her face – and two of her fingers no longer work properly. She now has trouble sleeping, too, often experiences nightmares and has headaches every day. 

The prosecutor explained that authorities arrived to find Savoy laying in a pool of blood inside her Leverett, Massachusetts, home with several broken bones and puncture wounds. 

Hachiyanagi (pictured) reportedly straddled the Savoy as she punched her and told her that she 'had loved (her) for years'

Savoy (pictured) told the court on Friday that after the attack she suffered nerve damage to her face, two of her fingers no longer work properly and she has nightmares and headaches every day

Hachiyanagi (left) reportedly straddled the Savoy as she punched her and told her that she ‘had loved (her) for years’. Savoy (right) told the court on Friday that after the attack she suffered nerve damage to her face, two of her fingers no longer work properly and she has nightmares and headaches every day

Cops said that Hachiyanagi seemed to have put on a façade for officers, claiming that she had been the one to save Savoy. She said that she arrived at the house to find her friend was ‘barely breathing’ after an unknown intruder broke in. 

‘Your Honor, I ask for accountability and justice, please,’ Savoy said to the judge in court on Friday.

‘I do not speak or act vindictively, nor do I ever want to cross that line. Respect of and for other human beings matters a great deal to me.

‘It’s difficult to fathom why this happened,’ she added. 

‘All I know is that she betrayed my trust, invaded my home and tried to kill me with premeditated violence. The cruelty she wielded with weapons, and expressed in words, was extreme.’



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