CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — The gunman charged in the deaths of eight people at three metro Atlanta spas has pleaded guilty to one of the shootings in Cherokee County.
Robert Aaron Long is accused of killing Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54, at a spa near Acworth on March 16.
Long entered a guilty plea with the Cherokee County District Attorney’s office. His legal team negotiated for a plea of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He will avoid the death penalty in Cherokee County.
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Channel 2′s Chris Jose sat three rows behind Long in court Tuesday. Jose said Long showed no emotion but his family did tear up.
Long spoke during the hearing and described buying a gun the day of the shootings and said he wanted to kill himself.
He said he bought a bottle of bourbon and drove to Youngs Asian Massage and sat in the parking lot for an hour before going inside.
“When I was sitting in the car is when I began thinking about killing the people inside there,” Long said.
Long faced multiple charges, including four counts of malice murder, four counts of felony murder and 11 counts of aggravated assault.
District Attorney Shannon Wallace said Long will serve four life sentences without parole even though the death penalty would have been in play if the case went to trial.
Wallace said in an afternoon news conference that the families wanted swift justice.
“What he did was cold and calculated. No regard to human life. He didn’t care. He could have stopped after the first victim which was horrific enough but he kept going,” said Bonnie Michels, the widow of Paul Michels.
Long will have a separate case in Fulton County. A grand jury there indicted Robert Aaron Long, 22, in the deaths of Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis previously filed notice that she intends to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty against Long.
Wallace said she investigated the case with the FBI and the sheriff’s office as a hate crime but did not find sufficient evidence to purse a hate crime penalty enhancement. She said if the case had gone to trial she intended to portray the case as a bias against gender but not as a racially motivated attack against Asians.
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On Monday afternoon, Jose learned the site of the first shooting is back open for business. Jose said the signage is different and there’s an open sign at the front door. Employees told Jose they had recently re-opened with a new staff.
Jose spoke to Xiaojie “Emily” Tan’s ex-husband outside her former business. Michael Webb told Jose he and Tan’s daughter will be at the hearing.
Dana Toole, whose sister Delaina Yaun who was killed, also told Jose that she would attend the hearing.
“The Asian community was attacked, but I was attacked. My sister was attacked. Our family was attacked,” Toole said.
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