Death Penalty Sought Against Accused Atlanta Shooter Robert Aaron Long
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Accused Atlanta-Area Spa Murderer Should Get Death Penalty for Hate Crimes and ‘Domestic Terrorism’: Prosecutors

Accused Atlanta spa murderer Robert Aaron Long was hit with more than a dozen charges on Tuesday in connection with his alleged mass shooting spree that left eight dead and another wounded at three separate spas in that city. Six of the dead were Asian women. Georgia prosecutors have announced their intention to seek the death penalty against Long, as well as enhanced penalties for “crimes involving bias and prejudice.”

Long, 22, also deserves capital punishment because he committed at least four of his alleged murders “during an act of domestic terrorism,” prosecutors say.

The prosecution’s filings stand in stark contrast to initial statements by Atlanta law enforcement that the then-21-year-old Long claimed to have been motivated by a “sexual addiction” and was a former customer of similar businesses who viewed his victims as “targets of opportunity.”

“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” a spokesperson for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said on March 17.

Other reporting and interviews reinforced the idea that Long was very religious and repressed his sexual desires.

“He was militant about it,” Tyler Bayless, a former roommate of Long’s at the 12-step transitional-housing facility Maverick Recovery, told The Washington Post. “This was the kind of guy who would hate himself for masturbating, would consider that a relapse.”

Depicting his motivation far differently, prosecutors alleged Long targeted Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong Ae Yue, 63, for murder because of their “actual or perceived race, national origin, sex, and gender.” The mass shooting cast national attention to violence against Asian-American people.

Long selected Isis Escobar for her “actual or perceived sex and gender,” prosecutors say.

His alleged murders of Yue, Kim, Park and Grant showed an “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved depravity of mind,” the death penalty notice states.

The 19-count indictment charges four murder counts, four felony murder counts, five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of domestic terrorism, and five counts of possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.

A separate grand jury in Cherokee County indicted Long for a separate shooting there that resulted in the killings of Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54.

Under a law passed in Georgia last summer, hate crimes are not a standalone offense but can be aggravating circumstances a jury can find, which would would carry an additional penalty.

Read the court papers below:

Death penalty notice:

Hate-crimes notice:

(Mugshot via Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office)

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Law&Crime's senior investigative reporter and editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.