Atlanta spa shootings: Robert Aaron Long sentenced to 4 life sentences as part of plea deal

CANTON, Ga. — A judge in Georgia accepted a plea deal Tuesday reached by Cherokee County prosecutors in the March shooting deaths of four people at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor in Acworth, handing down four life sentences to shooter Robert Aaron Long.

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Long pleaded guilty to four counts of malice murder for the March 16 deaths of Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54. He also faces a possible death penalty sentence if he’s convicted in four other killings at a pair of spas in Atlanta, where he also faces charges of domestic terrorism with a hate crime enhancement in addition to murder, The Associated Press reported.

“Many societal issues, sort of, have come to a crossroads in this case: gun violence and concern about crimes against people based on their nationality or ethnicity, and certainly crimes that arise out of the objectifying of women,” Cherokee County Superior Court Chief Judge Ellen McElyea said Tuesday in court. “I think this sentence that is negotiated speaks to those things. It adequately makes you aware, Mr. Long, and everyone in this community aware of how serious we take those concerns.”

The four life sentences handed down to Long were set to run consecutively. He was also sentenced to 30 years in prison for criminal intent to commit a felony, 20 years in prison on each of six counts of aggravated assault, five years in prison for possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and 10 years in prison for first-degree criminal damage to property.

Many of the people killed in the March 16 shootings were of Asian descent, although investigators have said that race did not play a factor in the attack. Instead, Long said in court that he wanted to “punish” people for his sexual addition, WSB-TV reported.

McElyea acknowledged in court that the March 16 shootings were “from a person of one group against people of another group.”

“But what is also true is that you harmed people who were not in those categories because once hatred is given a gun, it doesn’t matter who gets in the way,” McElyea said. “We are all subject to being the victim of a hate crime whether we belong to that group or not.”

Authorities previously said the 22-year-old shot five people, including Tan, Feng, Yaun and Michels, at the spa in Acworth before driving to Atlanta.

About an hour after the shooting at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor, police responding to a call about a robbery found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. While there, officers learned of a call reporting shots fired at Aromatherapy Spa across the street and found a woman who appeared to have been shot dead.

Officials have identified the four people killed in Atlanta as Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63. Long will face a separate trial on charges related to those deaths in Fulton County, WSB reported.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story included a statement erroneously reported by the Associated Press and attributed to Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace . We’ve removed the erroneous quote.