Guilty Plea in 4 Atlanta-Area Spa Killings

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The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, besides faces 4 execution charges successful a neighboring county, wherever the authoritative is seeking the decease penalty.

Robert Aaron Long pleaded blameworthy  connected  Tuesday to 4  killings astatine  Young’s Asian Massage successful  Cherokee County, an Atlanta suburb.
Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

July 27, 2021Updated 11:53 a.m. ET

CANTON, Ga. — The antheral accused of sidesplitting 8 radical astatine a drawstring of Atlanta-area spas pleaded blameworthy connected Tuesday to 4 counts of execution successful suburban Cherokee County and volition service 4 consecutive beingness sentences without the anticipation of parole positive 35 years successful prison. But the man, Robert Aaron Long, inactive faces 4 different execution charges successful adjacent Fulton County, wherever the authoritative is seeking the decease penalty.

Mr. Long, 22, appeared successful tribunal successful a achromatic formal garment and grey formal slacks, his wrists shackled astatine his sides. He was cleanable shaven and wore glasses, with his hairsbreadth shaved astatine the sides and agelong astatine the top.

He stood earlier the justice and softly answered, “Yes, ma’am,” erstwhile a authoritative asked him if helium understood the presumption of the plea agreement.

The March 16 shooting spree acceptable disconnected a nationwide question of interest implicit racially motivated attacks connected Asian radical astatine a clip of broader anxiousness and choler implicit racism successful the United States. Six of the 8 victims were women of Asian descent. Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County territory attorney, has indicated successful tribunal filings that she intends to seek enhanced penalties against Mr. Long, who is white, for committing crimes due to the fact that of the “actual oregon perceived race, nationalist origin, enactment and gender” of the victims.

Mr. Long had not made a tribunal quality since helium was arrested a fewer hours aft the shootings astatine 3 spas. He was identified that evening by a authorities trooper portion driving successful an S.U.V. connected Interstate 75, astir 150 miles southbound of Atlanta.

Law enforcement officials aboriginal said that Mr. Long had told them helium was connected his mode to Florida to transportation retired different onslaught connected a concern tied to the pornography industry.

Shannon Wallace, the Cherokee County prosecutor, connected Tuesday gave 1 of the astir elaborate descriptions yet of Mr. Long’s day, based connected an interrogation conducted with him by detectives conscionable aft his arrest.

Mr. Long had been kicked retired of his parents’ location aft helium refused to instrumentality to inpatient attraction for his enactment addiction, she said, and was surviving with a person and “accountability partner” from his church. He had been moving astatine a scenery institution but was told not to travel to enactment connected March 16 due to the fact that it was raining. Instead, helium spent the greeting viewing pornography. His person could perceive him, Ms. Wallace said, and confronted him astir “the elephant successful the room.”

Mr. Long near the location intending to termination himself, she said. He bought a 9 mm handgun and a vessel of Four Roses bourbon. At archetypal helium planned to spell to Young’s Asian Massage, a strip-mall concern successful Cherokee County, northwest of Atlanta, for 1 last assignation with a enactment idiosyncratic and past termination himself, she said. But arsenic helium waited for an hr successful the parking lot, drinking and increasing much drunk, his program changed: He decided to perpetrate “vigilante justice” against the enactment industry.

Officials and acquaintances person antecedently said that Mr. Long, who was raised successful a strict evangelical Christian environment, frequented massage parlors and had antecedently sought retired Christian counseling successful an effort to rein successful his impulses.

In effect to questioning by Judge Ellen McElyea, Mr. Long said helium had been kicked retired of his parents’ location for visiting a spa successful Atlanta and exchanging wealth for sex.

He told the justice that helium had decided to spell to Young’s Asian Massage connected March 16 intending to “act retired sexually.” He said helium hoped that helium would hatred himself capable astatine that constituent “to bash successful my ain life.”

Mr. Long said helium had been to Young’s aggregate times successful the past. That day, helium said, helium went into the spa, gave his wealth to a pistillate down a table and was led to a room, wherever a young pistillate performed a intersexual enactment connected him. Afterward, helium enactment connected his apparel and went to a bath successful the backmost of the parlor. Then helium came retired and began shooting.

After the shootings successful Cherokee County, Ms. Wallace said, sheriff’s deputies released a inactive photograph of Mr. Long to the quality media, taken from information cameras adjacent the spa. Mr. Long’s parents, she said, saw the photograph and contacted the sheriff’s department. They had been pursuing Mr. Long’s movements with a tracking app called “Find My Kid,” and instrumentality enforcement utilized it to find Mr. Long arsenic helium fled south.

Ms. Wallace said that respective Asian American acquaintances of Mr. Long were interviewed by instrumentality enforcement, and that nary of them had ever seen him grounds anti-Asian bias. Others said they had ne'er heard him grounds radical oregon taste bias of immoderate kind.

“How astir women?” Judge McElyea asked. Ms. Wallace said that if the lawsuit had gone to trial, her bureau would person filed for a hatred crimes enhancement for bias based connected gender. She said her bureau besides would person sought the decease penalty.

Prosecutors accidental 1 idiosyncratic was injured astatine Young’s Asian Massage and 4 were killed: Xiaojie Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Paul Andre Michels, 54; and Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33. The gunman past drove to the bosom of Atlanta, successful Fulton County, wherever helium fatally changeable 4 women of South Korean descent astatine 2 different spas: Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; Yong Ae Yue, 63; and Hyun Jung Grant, 51.

On Tuesday, the Cherokee County courtroom was crowded with household members of those killed successful the shooting spree arsenic good arsenic Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, the antheral who was injured successful the attack.

Tuesday’s arraignment was the opening of what could beryllium a protracted ineligible play adjacent though galore of the basal facts of the killings bash not look to beryllium successful dispute. With the decease punishment looming arsenic a anticipation successful Fulton County, Mr. Long and his lawyers whitethorn take to spell to trial. With Covid-related backlogs and different delays, a Fulton County proceedings mightiness not commencement until 2024, an authoritative successful Ms. Willis’s bureau said.

In an important indicator of Mr. Long’s aboriginal successful the Fulton County courts, Mr. Long and his lawyer told the justice connected Tuesday that determination were nary issues of intelligence wellness oregon quality to recognize the quality betwixt close and incorrect that would beryllium a defence to his transgression liability.

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