Georgia man pleads guilty to four Atlanta-area spa killings, sentenced to life

Georgia man pleads guilty to four Atlanta-area spa killings, sentenced to life
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The Georgia man accused of killing eight people in the spa shootings earlier this year pleaded guilty on Tuesday to four of the deaths and was sentenced to life in prison.

Robert Aaron Long pleaded guilty to all charges in the March killing of four people in Cherokee County. He entered the plea to avoid the death penalty, and he was sentenced to life without parole.

Long pleaded guilty to malice murder, felony murder, criminal attempt to commit murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, possession of a gun during the commission of a crime and first-degree criminal damage to property.

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District Attorney Shannon Wallace said relatives of the victims support the deal, and that she would have sought the death penalty if Long had not pleaded guilty to the charges, The Associated Press reported.

“For the past 133 days, we have worked diligently to bring a resolution to this case on our client’s behalf,” said Zachary Smith, who represented Long along with attorney J. Daran Burns. “Our representation successfully kept the death penalty off the table here in Cherokee County.”

Wallace and prosecutors in the county said Long was not motivated by hate against Asian people. Although six of the eight victims were Asian women, police said the crime was based on Long's "sex addiction."

“All of the evidence that was gathered with regard to Cherokee County, your honor, came to the same conclusion, that this crime was not motivated by a bias or hate against Asian Americans,” Wallace said.

The Hill has reached out to Wallace for comment.

Long still faces charges of felony murder, aggravated assault and domestic terrorism in Atlanta for the four other March killings, according to the AP.

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District Attorney Fani Willis in Fulton County has committed to seeking the death penalty, along with a hate crime enhancement. 

“It has been Mr. Long’s desire to accept responsibility for his actions on March 16 from the time that he interviewed with police after his arrest. The Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace worked with us to negotiate this case to achieve today’s result bringing finality in Cherokee County. It is our hope that the Fulton County District Attorney follows D.A. Wallace’s example and agrees to a similar resolution in that county,” Smith said. 

The shooting in March shined a spotlight on the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.

--Updated 12:30 p.m.