The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

An art professor allegedly went to a colleague’s home to admit her feelings. She ended up attacking her with a fire poker, police say.

A daytime view of the Mary Lyon Hall on the campus of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. (iStock)

At first, the victim told police she lost her glasses during the frightening assault, an apparent home invasion, and she could not remember a single identifying feature of her attacker, even the person’s gender.

She had been struck repeatedly in the head and face with a fire poker, garden shears and a rock just after midnight on Christmas Eve inside her home, according to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office in Western Massachusetts. Her colleague at Mount Holyoke College, art professor Rie Hachiyanagi, claimed she arrived at her friend’s home in Leverett, Mass., to find her friend lying in a pool of blood in the foyer and barely breathing. Hachiyanagi called 911, reporting she saw “signs of a struggle” throughout her colleague’s home, according to a police report obtained by Western Mass News.

When the state troopers arrived, they found Hachiyanagi lying with the severely injured woman on the floor, according to the police report.

But the embrace was a ruse, as the victim would soon reveal to police — once she was alone at the hospital, away from Hachiyanagi.

She didn’t need glasses to identify her attacker, she told police: She knew all along it was Hachiyanagi — who had come to her doorstep that night to admit her feelings for her before spontaneously attacking her once inside, the unidentified victim said.

Hachiyanagi, 48, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of armed assault to murder a person over the age of 60 in the Christmas Eve attack on her colleague, an attack the victim suggested was motivated by unrequited love. The victim told police she had lied earlier about not knowing the identity of her attacker out of fear for her safety in Hachiyanagi’s presence, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported. She said she has known Hachiyanagi, who specializes in paper art and also chairs the college’s art studio, since 2005.

Hachiyanagi is being held without bail on the charges, which also include multiple counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, mayhem and armed assault in a dwelling. An attorney for Hachiyanagi could not be immediately located.

A spokeswoman for Mount Holyoke confirmed in a statement to Massachusetts news outlets that both women worked at the college and that Hachiyanagi has been placed on administrative leave. The art professor is barred from the South Hadley campus “pending further review of the incident.”

“During the winter recess, there was a serious incident involving two Mount Holyoke faculty members. The incident occurred off-campus and resulted in the hospitalization of one faculty member who is receiving care,” spokeswoman Christian Feuerstein said in the statement, adding that the college is cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation.

Hachiyanagi is expected in Orange District Court on Feb. 4 for another bail hearing. The victim, meanwhile, is recovering from “severe injuries,” including multiple broken bones in her face, but is expected to survive, the DA’s office said.

According to the police report cited by Western Mass News, Hachiyanagi told investigators that the two professors had plans to meet at the victim’s residence around 11 p.m. on Dec. 23.

But the victim said there was no such plan.

She said Hachiyanagi arrived unannounced on her doorstep, saying she “really missed her and wanted to talk with her about her feelings,” according to the police report. So the woman invited Hachiyanagi inside.

That’s when Hachiyanagi attacked, she said.

She remembered being hit in the head — again and again and again. She asked Hachiyanagi why she was assaulting her, and Hachiyanagi allegedly responded “that she loved her for many years and she should have known,” the Gazette reported, citing the police report. She “thought she was going to die at the hands of Hachiyanagi,” she told police.

So she decided the only way to get Hachiyanagi to stop was by “playing along” — lying to the art professor that she also had feelings for her, the Gazette reported. She begged Hachiyanagi to let her go and call 911. It worked.

From the start, police were suspicious as to why Hachiyanagi was even at her colleague’s home so late at night.

After Hachiyanagi claimed they had plans, police asked for her whereabouts in the hours before arriving at the victim’s home, but Hachiyanagi claimed she could not remember anything that occurred after 6 p.m. as a result of memory issues from multiple concussions, the Gazette reported. (One of the art installations mentioned in her portfolio, Ritual for RED, is “a re-enactment of the lost memories suffered from a severe auto accident.”) Troopers searched the property and immediate vicinity for signs of the allegedly anonymous home invader’s escape but found no signs of a third person.

Finally, after interviewing the victim at the hospital, they understood why.

Police arrested Hachiyanagi hours later on Dec. 24, the Gazette reported. In Hachiyanagi’s possession, they found the victim’s phone, wallet and her missing eyeglasses.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Hachiyanagi pleaded guilty on Friday. She pleaded not guilty.