Art Professor Who Tortured Colleague With Pruning Shears Sentenced to Prison

On Wednesday, former art professor Rie Hachiyanagi was sentenced to 10-12 years in prison for her role in the brutal attack and torture of a colleague nearly two years ago.

Hachiyanagi and her victim, Lauret Savoy, were both professors at Mount Holyoke College, a liberal arts women's college in Western Massachusetts. Savoy taught geology and environmental studies, while Hachiyanagi headed the art department.

According to 2020 reports, Hachiyanagi arrived at Savoy's home late at night on December 23, 2019, telling Savoy that she "wanted to talk about her feelings." She was reportedly seeking emotional support from Savoy following a breakup. After entering the home, however, Hachiyanagi attacked the victim with her fists, a rock, a fire poker, and pruning shears.

When Savoy asked Hachiyanagi why she was attacking her, the perpetrator said "that she loved her for many years" and that she "should have known."

According to the Northwestern District Attorney's Office, Hachiyanagi then subjected Savoy to "a four-hour torture session." Savoy believed Hachiyanagi would kill her: Hachiyanagi commented on Savoy's blood loss and told her she would not live for much longer, reported The Greenfield Recorder.

Eventually, the victim convinced Hachiyanagi to call for help by "playing along," acting as if she reciprocated her feelings.

On Friday, Hachiyanagi, now 50, pleaded guilty to nine charges relating to the crime, including three counts of armed assault with intent to murder a person over 60. Savoy spoke to the court, outlining the lasting emotional and physical traumas she's endured since the attack.

"I've struggled to find a word that could hold in its meaning both the attack and my experience of it," said Savoy, per the DA's office. "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."

According to The Greenfield Recorder, Savoy suffers from nerve damage among other lasting physical injuries. She is also unable to sleep and has frequent nightmares and migraines.

The newspaper also noted that, prior to the attack, Savoy had considered Hachiyanagi to be a close friend.

Mount Holyoke College
A former Mount Holyoke College art professor was sentenced to 10-12 years in prison for her role in the brutal attack and torture of a colleague nearly two years ago. A Google Street View image of the Mount Holyoke College campus. Google Street View

At Hachiyanagi's sentencing on Wednesday, Judge Francis Flannery called the case "one of the most horrific set of facts [he's] heard," noted the DA's office in a statement.

Flannery acknowledged that, until the attack, Hachiyanagi was known as a respected individual with a clean record. "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," he said. "I still don't see an adequate explanation for what happened."

"Professor Savoy is certainly a victim of a horrific crime, but that's not what I'm going to remember," added Flannery. "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."