Atlanta spa shootings: DA to seek death penalty against Robert Aaron Long

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A district attorney in Georgia is seeking the death penalty against Robert Aaron Long, the man accused of shooting eight people to death at three Atlanta-area spas in March.

Long appeared in the Fulton County Superior Court on Monday morning, where he faces charges including murder, aggravated assault and domestic terrorism in the March 16 killings of four people of Asian descent at two of the spas in Atlanta.

Long already pleaded guilty last month to murder charges in the killings of four other people at a spa in Cherokee County. He received four sentences of life without parole plus an additional 35 years in those killings.

Police have said the shooting spree first began at a spa in Cherokee County before Long drove 30 miles south to Atlanta, where he shot three women at Gold Spa and one woman across the street at Aromatherapy Spa.

Robert Aaron Long appeared in front of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta on Monday. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution via AP)

Those killed in Cherokee County were: Paul Michels, 54; Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Delaina Yaun, 33. The Atlanta victims were: Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.

All of the Atlanta victims were women of Asian descent, and District Attorney Fani Willis said she believes the killings were motivated by bias based on the gender and race of the victims.

While Long’s attorneys had reached out to her about the possibility of a plea deal, Willis said she is seeking the death penalty, as well as a sentencing enhancement under Georgia’s new hate crimes law.

Long pleaded guilty last month to four of the killings in Cherokee County and was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. He now faces charges – and a possible death penalty – in the four Atlanta killings.
(Crisp County Sherrif’s Office)

Calling it “one of the most horrific cases” to have occurred in Fulton County, Willis said her decision to seek the death penalty was made with the “complete support” of the victims’ families.

“Every person here is going to be valued, everyone is considered equal before the law, and I don’t ever want our victims to get lost,” Willis said during a news conference after Monday’s hearing. “These are all women who worked and lived and played in our community.”

Long said during the hearing in Cherokee County he planned to kill himself that day and went to the massage businesses thinking the shame he felt from paying for sex acts would push him to do it. But while sitting in his car outside the first spa, he decided to kill the people inside.

He told detectives he struggled with pornography and sex, and Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace said during last month’s hearing that Long blamed the victims for his inability to control his impulses.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville on Monday said the hearing would continue on Sept. 28, when the reading of the indictment and entry of a plea is expected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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