Tue, 28 Sep 2021

WASHINGTON, July 27 (Xinhua) -- The suspect accused of killing eight people in a shooting rampage in March at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area in the U.S. state of Georgia pleaded guilty Tuesday to four of the eight killings.

Robert Aaron Long was charged with murder and a slew of other criminal counts in shootings on March 16 in Fulton and Cherokee counties.

The 22-year-old faced 23 counts in the fatal shooting of four at Young's Asian Massage in Cherokee County on the outskirts of Atlanta. The charges include malice murder, felony murder, attempt to commit murder and aggravated assault.

Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace is recommending four consecutive life sentences, plus 35 years to serve in confinement. Long's guilty plea means that he will get the life sentences without parole.

Long carried out the other two shootings at two spas across the street from each other in Fulton County in northeast Atlanta. He faces an additional 19 counts - including murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and domestic terrorism -- in those killings, for which prosecutors will be pursuing the death penalty and enhanced hate crime charges.

The shootings, whose victims include six women of Asian descent, came as anti-Asian hate crimes were on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Long told police his motive was not related to race. He said he wanted to punish those who stimulated his sex addiction.

Wallace told Cherokee County Superior Court Chief Judge Ellen McElyea in court Tuesday that several Asian American acquaintances of Long were interviewed by law enforcement, and that none of them had ever seen him exhibit anti-Asian bias.

The attorney added that her office would have filed for a hate crimes enhancement for bias based on gender if the case had gone to trial, and that prosecutors also would have sought the death penalty had Long not pleaded guilty.

Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, has intended to seek enhanced penalties against Long, who is white, for committing crimes because of the "actual or perceived race, national origin, sex and gender" of the victims.

Long has been advised not to make any statements due to the pending death-penalty case in Fulton.

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