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A Georgia man accused of killing eight people at three Atlanta-area massage companies pleaded guilty Tuesday in Cherokee County, hoping for a life without parole for the first four of the shooting deaths.

Robert Aaron Long still faces the death penalty if convicted of four more gun murders in Atlanta, where he faces domestic terrorism charges with an increase in hate crime in addition to murder. Long is white and six of the victims were women of Asian descent.

A judge heard a prosecutor describe the details of his crimes. The prosecutor said the 22-year-old defendant signed a plea agreement admitting all charges in Cherokee County, where he was charged with malicious murder, criminal murder, attempted murder and aggravated assault.

Police said the attacks began when Long shot and killed four people, including three women and two of Asian origin, at the Youngs Asian Massage near Woodstock just before 5 p.m. on March 16, 2020. He also shot and injured a woman. fifth person, they say.

Long then drove south to Atlanta, where he shot three women at Gold Spa before crossing the street for Aromatherapy Spa and fatally shooting another woman, police said. All of the Atlanta victims were women of Asian descent.

Those killed at the Cherokee County Spa were: Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44 years old; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54 years old. The Atlanta victims were: Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.

Long is due to appear again next month in Fulton County, where District Attorney Fani Willis has filed a notice stating that she intends to seek an improvement in the hate crime sentence as well as the death penalty. , based on actual or perceived race, national origin, sex, and gender of the four women killed in Atlanta.

Georgia’s new hate crime law does not provide for a stand-alone hate crime. After a person is convicted of an underlying crime, a jury must determine if this is motivated by bias, resulting in additional punishment.

The Fulton County indictment, consisting of 19 counts, includes charges of murder, criminal murder, aggravated assault and domestic terrorism.

Police said after the shooting at the two Atlanta spas, Long got back into his car and headed south.

At that time, Long’s parents had called authorities for help after recognizing their son in stills from a security video that the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office posted on social media. His parents were already tracking his movements through his “find my iPhone” app, the prosecutor said, and it enabled authorities to locate their son on Interstate 75.

State soldiers and sheriff’s deputies spotted his SUV, and one forced Long to come to a stop when he collided with his vehicle. Long then surrendered to authorities in rural Crisp County, about 225 miles south of Atlanta.

Long told police his attack was not racially motivated, and a spokesperson for the Cherokee sheriff said it did not appear to be a hate crime, sparking widespread skepticism and outrage.

“He apparently has a problem, which he considers a sex addiction, and sees these places as something that allows him to go to these places, and it is a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” he said. first said Sheriff Cherokee’s captain, Jay Baker. journalists.

Baker was also criticized for saying Long was having “a very bad day” and was taken out of the case.

State Representative Bee Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American to serve at Georgia House and a frequent activist for women and communities of color, said the shootings appeared to be at “the intersection of violence sexist, misogyny and xenophobia “. And Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that regardless of the shooter’s motivation, “this is unacceptable, this is hateful and it has to stop.”

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