A man already sentenced to life in prison in the fatal shootings of four people at a suburban Atlanta spa pleaded not guilty Tuesday to four more killings at two spas in the city.
Robert Aaron Long, 22, appeared briefly in Fulton County Superior Court, where he waived arraignment and entered a not guilty plea to 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.
Long is accused of shooting four people to death at a massage business and shooting and wounding a fifth person in Cherokee County on March 16 before killing four more people at two massage businesses in Atlanta. Six of the eight people who were killed were women of Asian descent.
Long pleaded guilty in Cherokee County in July to four counts of murder and other charges and received four sentences of life without parole plus 35 years. His victims there were Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Xiaojie Tan, 49, and Daoyou Feng, 44.
The people fatally shot in Atlanta were Suncha Kim, 69, Soon Chung Park, 74, Hyun Jung Grant, 51, and Yong Ae Yue, 63.
Long did not address Judge Ural Glanville on Tuesday during the hearing, which lasted a few minutes. Glanville asked the defense whether it wanted to waive indictment and plead not guilty; defense attorney Jerilyn Bell said yes. Glanville set the next hearing for Nov. 23.
Long said during the hearing that he had 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 he was sitting in his car outside the first spa, he decided to kill the people inside, he said.
Police have alleged that after he shot five people at the spa in Cherokee County, he drove about 30 miles south to Atlanta, where he shot three women at Gold Spa and a woman across the street at Aromatherapy Spa.
Authorities have said he got back in his car and headed south on the interstate, intending to carry out similar attacks in Florida. He was taken into custody in south Georgia after his parents recognized him in images from security video posted online by authorities in Cherokee County and called police.
The killings sparked fear and outrage among Asian Americans, who were already on edge because of increased hostility stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Many have been upset by assertions that Long was motivated not by racial bias but by the shame he felt from a sex addiction, which is not recognized as an official disorder.