Atlanta spa shooting suspect to plead 4 murders
ATLANTA (AP) – A man already sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to shooting four people at a massage company outside of Atlanta is expected to argue for the slaughter of four others on same day in two city spas.
Robert Aaron Long, 22, is scheduled to appear in Fulton County Superior Court on Tuesday, where he will argue on charges of murder, aggravated assault and domestic terrorism. District Prosecutor Fani Willis calls for the death penalty, as well as an improvement in the sentence under Georgia’s new hate crimes law.
In July, Long pleaded guilty in Cherokee County to charges including four counts of murder. He received four sentences of life without parole plus an additional 35 years.
Those killed in Cherokee County were: Paul Michels, 54; Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44 years old; and Delaina Yaun, 33. The Atlanta victims were: Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.
Tuesday will be the second time Long will appear before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville. In a brief appearance last month, Glanville asked Long’s defense attorneys – court-appointed attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defender’s Office – their qualifications to handle a death penalty case and passed. review a checklist specific to capital matters.
When the murders took place in March, Asian Americans were already experiencing an increase in hostility over the coronavirus pandemic. The fact that the majority of the victims killed were women of Asian descent exacerbated existing feelings of fear and anger. Many were shocked by Long’s claims that he was motivated by the shame he felt because of sexual urges, rather than racial prejudice.
Cherokee County Prosecutor Shannon Wallace said during the July hearing that investigators found no evidence of racial bias behind the killings. She said if this case had gone to trial, she was ready to seek the death penalty and would have argued that Long was motivated by gender bias.
Willis, the Fulton County District Attorney, said last month that she believed race and gender played a role in Long’s motivation. Georgian Hate Crimes Law does not provide for a stand-alone hate crime. After a person is convicted of an underlying crime, a jury must determine whether it was motivated by bias, resulting in additional punishment.
After shooting five people at the Youngs Asian Massage in Cherokee County, Long traveled about 30 miles south to Atlanta, where he shot three women at the Gold Spa and one woman across the street at the Aromatherapy Spa, police said.
He then headed south on the freeway, and authorities said he intended to carry out similar attacks in Florida.
But his parents had called police after recognizing their son in footage from a security video posted online by officials in Cherokee County. His parents were already tracking his movements via an app on his phone, which allowed authorities to track him down and detain him on a highway in southern Georgia.
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