Atlanta-area spa shooting suspect pleads not guilty

Robert Aaron Long, accused of mass shootings at multiple Atlanta-area spas, appears in court in Fulton County on felony murder and other charges.

The hearing in Fulton County for the suspect in the deadly shootings at multiple metro Atlanta spas has been moved to November.

Robert Aaron Long, 22, appeared Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court, where he pleaded not guilty and waived his arraignment 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.

Speaking to the court, Long's attorneys told the judge that they needed more time to prepare his defense. A new hearing date is set for 9 a.m. on Nov. 23.

In July, Long pleaded guilty in Cherokee County to charges including four counts of murder. He received four sentences of life without parole plus an additional 35 years.

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


A makeshift memorial outside the Gold Spa in Atlanta days after a deadly shooting rampage on March 16, 2021. (Austin McAfee / FOX 5)

Tuesday will be the second time Long appears before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville. During a brief appearance last month, Glanville asked Long’s defense attorneys — court-appointed lawyers from the Georgia capital defender’s office — about their qualifications to handle a death penalty case and went through a checklist specific to capital cases.

When the killings happened in March, Asian Americans were already experiencing an uptick in hostility related to the coronavirus pandemic. The fact that a majority of the slain victims were women of Asian descent exacerbated existing feelings of fear and anger. Many have been upset by Long’s assertions that he was motivated by the shame he felt from sexual urges, rather than by racial bias.

Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace said during the hearing in July that investigators found no evidence of racial bias motivating the killings. She said that had that case gone to trial, she was prepared to seek the death penalty and would have argued Long was motivated by gender bias.


Robert Aaron Long (Fulton County Sheriff's Office)

Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, said last month that she believes race and gender played a role in Long’s motivation. Georgia’s hate crimes law does not provide for a stand-alone hate crime. After a person is convicted of an underlying crime, a jury must determine whether it was motivated by bias, which carries an additional penalty.

After shooting five people at Youngs Asian Massage in Cherokee County, Long drove about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south to Atlanta, where he shot three women at Gold Spa and one woman across the street at Aromatherapy Spa, police have said.

He then headed south on the interstate, and authorities have said he intended to carry out similar attacks in Florida.

But his parents had called police after recognizing their son in images from security video posted online by authorities in Cherokee County. His parents were already tracking his movements through an application on his phone, which allowed authorities to find him and take him into custody on a south Georgia interstate.





The Associated Press contributed to this report.