November 02, 2021
Just after midnight on December 24, 2019, state police Northampton barracks dispatch in Western Massachusetts received a phone call from a woman saying she had found a friend semi-conscious and barely breathing with a head injury.
The caller, Rie Hachiyanagi, 50, an arts professor at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, said she found friend and work colleague, Lauret Savoy, a geology and environmental studies professor who also taught at Mount Holyoke College, injured and bleeding on the floor of her own home. Hachiyanagi told police that the two had plans that night to meet at Savoy’s house around 23:00, however, when Hachiyanagi showed up, she received no response and went looking for her dear friend, whom she found in an injured state. Hachiyanagi told police that the victim had informed her she had been assaulted in her home, however, when police asked for a description, Hachiyanagi could not provide any details pertaining to the alleged attacker, including whether the attacker was male or female.
She said there was indication that a struggle had taken place in the residence and that she discovered an exterior door to the home open. When officer Sergeant Burgress responded to the scene, he discovered both Hachiyanagi and the victim lying on the floor together. Hachiyanagi was saturated in the victim’s blood.
Supporting officers soon arrived at the scene and began to search the house and surrounding premises for any sign of an intruder, to no avail.
Although Rie Hachiyanagi owned her own vehicle, on December 23, 2019, she rented a Toyota RAV4 SUV from a rental dealership in Northampton. When asked how she had spent her day before discovering the victim, Hachiyanagi told investigators that she had met with the victim multiple times that day, first at 11:00 when she dropped off a plant, which she said was intended as a gift of emotional support as Savoy was waiting on the news of a cancer diagnosis. The two had known each other since 2005.
She returned the rental car at around 13:00 that same day. When asked why she rented a car when she already owned a functioning vehicle of her own, Hachiyanagi said driving an SUV made her "feel alive."
She then got dinner at a restaurant before meeting Savoy again at their place of work at around 16:00. It was there, that Hachiyanagi claims the pair made plans for her to come over to Savoy's residence at around 23:00. Hachiyanagi then left work and returned to her home before driving to a martial arts studio in Amherst where her boyfriend worked as an instructor. Her boyfriend wasn't working at the time as he was out of state visiting family. The pair were having relationship issues and Hachiyanagi felt as though the relationship was coming to an end. Saddened, she drove to her boyfriend’s place of work to lament alone in the parking lot. She then turned on her engine and pulled onto Route 116, travelling northbound. From this moment onwards she claimed that she did not remember anything until discovering Savoy injured on the floor of her own home. When asked to elaborate, Hachiyanagi explained that she had been suffering memory loss issues due to multiple concussions in the past, the most recent being a concussion sustained in a vehicular accident in the summer of 2019.
A doctor on the scene said that although Savoy had multiple injuries and broken bones to her head and face, the injuries were not life-threatening. Savoy was treated at Baystate Medical Centre for broken bones in her eye and nose area as well as multiple cuts and lacerations to the face and head. Her eyes were purple and swollen shut. When interviewed from her hospital bed, she identified Rie Hachiyanagi as her attacker. Hachiyanagi had behaved out of character that day, beginning with showing up unannounced at Savoy’s home with a gift that morning. Savoy told an officer that Hachiyanagi had never visited her at her home before. Savoy said the pair had not discussed any plans for Hachiyanagi to come over that night and had both agreed they would see each other in the new year.
Savoy arrived home that night at around 20:00. Not long after she had closed the door behind her and started to settle in, something caught her eye- a shadowy figure skulking around the front of the property. Savoy called out to the figure to identify themselves and Rie Hachiyanagi stepped forward. Savoy asked her colleague what she was doing at her house at night, to which she responded that she felt lonely and wanted to talk to someone, adding that she missed Savoy. Although taken aback, Savoy invited her friend to come in and turned to walk inside. When she turned, Hachiyanagi hit her in the back of the head with a heavy blunt object and Savoy fell to the floor.
What followed was an assault lasting a torturous four hours. Rie Hachiyanagi repeatedly struck Savoy in the face with various weapons, including a fire poker, rocks, a pair of pruning shears and a flurry of her own fists. Hachiyanagi beat Savoy, the motivation behind which was unrequited love. The assailant revealed that she had loved Savoy for years and began to blame the victim for failing to recognize the fact. In a desperate attempt to save her own life, Savoy told Hachiyanagi that she did love her. The attacks subsided only for a short while before they picked up in severity again when Hachiyanagi became frustrated that she would be jailed for the assaults. Savoy said she wouldn’t tell anyone and convinced her attacker that she would go along with the story that she was attacked by an unknown assailant and got Hachiyanagi to dial 911. During the call, Hachiyanagi allegedly said that she dropped her cell phone in the toilet, causing the call to cut off midway. Responders were still able to show up to the scene and remove Savoy from the scene to get her treatment. Savoy only revealed the truth to officers once she was safe in her hospital bed. When asked why she didn’t point out Hachiyanagi as her attacker to responders, she said she was terrified that Hachiyanagi would hurt her again, burn down her home or show up to the hospital with an excuse.
During the attack, Hachiyanagi taunted Savoy, telling her she was going to be blind and disfigured when she was done with her. As the life spilled from Savoy's body Hachiyanagi sat watching the blood pool around her and teased her victim, telling her it wouldn’t be long before she was dead.
Rie Hachiyanagi was arrested at around 7:00 and the assault weapons Savoy described were discovered at the scene. Hachiyanagi also had personal items belonging to the victim on her person, including Savoy's cell phone, eyeglasses, and the keys to her home. Savoy believed that Hachiyanagi would attempt to get into her hospital room to give back her possessions.
Hachiyanagi was sentenced to 10 - 12 years in prison last week after pleading guilty to nine charges, including three counts of armed assault to murder a person aged 60 or older, three counts of assault and battery, and counts of mayhem and home invasion. Initially she pleaded not guilty in 2020 but changed her plea in 2021. Rie has reportedly been a model prisoner since her incarceration.
In her impact statement professor Lauret Savoy said: "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."
Savoy has continued to suffer because of the attack. Not only did her insurance not cover the cost of the medical bills for injuries sustained during the torture, but she has also had to cover the costs of therapy for PTSD and cannot work or fulfil the book contract she signed before the attack on her life.
November 23, 2021