A Georgia man accused of killing eight people at three Asian-owned massage parlors will serve four life sentences in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to four of the shooting deaths.
Robert Aaron Long, 22, shot and killed four people at Young’s Asian Massage near the city of Woodstock in Cherokee County on March 16. He then drove south to Atlanta, police said, where he shot and killed three people at Gold Spa before going to Aromatherapy Spa across the street and killing another person.
BREAKING: Robert Aaron Long pleads guilty to the Atlanta spa shootings during a court appearance in Cherokee County this morning. He is sentenced to life without parole.
He now waits for a court appearance in Fulton County. pic.twitter.com/XzKSvfKG2J
— Chenue Her (@ChenueHer) July 27, 2021
Long signed a plea deal Tuesday admitting to all of the charges he is facing in Cherokee County. County Judge Ellen McElyea handed down the sentence later Tuesday, NBC News reported. He was indicted on 23 counts of malice murder, felony murder, attempt to commit murder and aggravated assault.
District Attorney Shannon Wallace said prosecutors planned to seek the death penalty if Long hadn’t pled guilty. She noted all the relatives of victims prosecutors have been able to contact supported reaching a plea deal in the interest of swift justice, The Associated Press reported.
“The defendant was merciless in his actions but the surviving victims and the families of the murdered victims chose to request mercy,” Wallace said during a Tuesday press conference, according to NBC News.
Wallace also said county investigators determined the killing spree “was not any kind of hate crime” though six of the victims were Asian women. She instead described Long as having been motivated by a “sex addiction” and a desire to eliminate sources of temptation, the AP reported. (RELATED: Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Reportedly Increased During Pandemic)
Long is scheduled to appear in August in Fulton County for the four shootings he has been charged with in Atlanta, the AP reported. District Attorney Fani Willis filed notice earlier in March with intent to seek a hate crime enhancement in addition to the death penalty, according to The New York Times.
Georgia enacted a hate crimes law in 2020 that allows a jury to determine whether a defendant convicted of an underlying crime was motivated by bias, which carries an additional penalty. But a defendant can’t face a stand-alone charge of a hate crime under the law.
Long is facing 19 counts in Fulton County including charges of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and domestic terrorism, the AP reported.