This Time, He Pleads Not Guilty to Fatal Spa Shootings

Robert Long faces death sentence in 4 cases; other 4 were handled in different county
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 27, 2021 1:06 PM CDT
Updated Sep 28, 2021 1:08 PM CDT
4 Guilty Pleas in Spa Killings, but 'Hate Crime' Rejected
This March 16 booking photo provided by the Crisp County, Ga., Sheriff's Office shows Robert Aaron Long.   (Crisp County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

Update: A man already sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to fatally shooting four people at a massage business outside Atlanta pleaded not guilty to shooting four others on the same day at two spas inside the city, per the AP. Robert Aaron Long, 22, appeared briefly Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court, where he waived arraignment and entered a not guilty plea on charges including murder, aggravated assault, and domestic terrorism. District Attorney Fani Willis is seeking the death penalty, as well as a sentencing enhancement under Georgia’s new hate crimes law. The previous four deaths were handled in a different county. Our original story from July follows:

A man accused of killing eight people, most of them women of Asian descent, at Atlanta-area massage businesses pleaded guilty Tuesday to four of the murders and was handed four sentences of life without parole. Robert Aaron Long, 22, still faces the death penalty in the four other deaths, which are being prosecuted in a different county, per the AP. His shooting spree at three different businesses in March ignited outrage and fueled fear among Asian Americans, who were already facing increased hostility at the time linked to the coronavirus pandemic. Many were particularly upset when authorities suggested that Long’s crimes were not racially motivated but were instead born of a “sex addiction,” which is not recognized as an official disorder.

In comments sure to further frustrate those outraged over Long’s apparent targeting of Asian women, a prosecutor reiterated Tuesday that Cherokee County investigators saw no evidence of racial bias. That’s at odds with the hate-crime enhancement that Long, who is white, faces just miles away in the four deaths in Atlanta. “This was not any kind of hate crime,” District Attorney Shannon Wallace said. On March 16, Long shot and killed four people, three of them women and two of Asian descent, at Youngs Asian Massage in Cherokee County. A fifth person was wounded. (Read about the victims.)

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