Spa shooting suspect enters not guilty plea in Fulton County

ATLANTA — The gunman charged in the deaths of eight people at three metro Atlanta spas appeared in Fulton County court for an arraignment hearing Tuesday.

Robert Aaron Long, 22, waived his arraignment and entered a not guilty plea on charges including murder, aggravated assault and domestic terrorism.

Long’s next court date is scheduled for November.

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Long is charged with the murders of Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63 at two Piedmont Road spas.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is seeking the death penalty and sentencing enhancement under Georgia’s new hate crimes law.

Long previously pleaded guilty to four counts of murder in the deaths of Paul Michels, 54; Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Delaina Yaun, 33 at a spa near Acworth.

He received four sentences of life without parole plus an additional 35 years. Long avoided the death penalty although the Cherokee County DA said it would have been in play if the case went to trial.

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Earlier this year, Willis announced she would be seeking the death penalty in the case. During a news conference last month, Willis said Long’s defense team reached out in hopes of making a deal.

“I’m reasonable, so a plea deal is always something that may be discussed in the future. However, I have no intention of removing the death notice,” Willis said.

Willis said she plans to move forward with hate crime charges based on race and gender will also seek the death penalty.

“I don’t want our victims to get lost. These were all women who worked and lived in our community. They were mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, friends.”

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In the Acworth shooting, Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace said her office 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.