Georgia prosecutor confirms plan to seek death penalty in Atlanta spa shootings

By Rich McKay 

  ATLANTA (Reuters) -Georgia prosecutors affirmed on Monday their intention to seek the death penalty in Atlanta's Fulton County for the suspect accused of murdering four people at two Asian-run day spas there, characterizing the shootings as hate crimes. 

  The accused, Robert Aaron Long, had been scheduled to be arraigned on Monday on the four Fulton County murder counts and other charges, but that was postponed until late September. 

  Long, 22, is accused of killing a total of eight people, nearly all of them of Asian descent, in a series of attacks on three spas in or near Atlanta on a single day in March. He has already pleaded guilty https://www.reuters.com/world/us/man-pleads-guilty-four-murders-atlanta-area-spa-shootings-2021-07-27 in the four slayings in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta, and was sentenced to life in prison. 

  In a hearing on Monday before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville in Atlanta, prosecutors affirmed that District Attorney Fani Willis had filed court papers declaring her intention to seek the death penalty and designating the case as a hate crime based on race or gender. 

  Sporting close-cropped hair instead of the mohawk he had worn in a previous court appearance, Long mostly sat in silence during the hearing. He quietly responded "yes, sir" to the judge when asked if he understood the hearing. 

  The March attacks galvanized an awareness of a wave of anti-Asian bias and violence across the United States during the coronavirus pandemic, which is believed to have originated in China. 

  In a court hearing in Cherokee County last month, Long showed little emotion as he described how he purchased a firearm and a bottle of bourbon and set out to kill himself, claiming to feel remorseful for a self-proclaimed sex addiction. 

  Instead, he said he decided to carry out the spa shootings. Afterwards, he drove about 30 miles (50 km) south to Atlanta and attacked two other spas run by people of Asian descent, prosecutors say, killing eight people in the two counties. 

  Long received four sentences of life in prison without parole last month for the shootings of Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Yan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44. 

  In Fulton County, he is charged with the killings of Yong Ae Yue, 63; Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; and Hyun Jung Grant, 51, at two Atlanta day spas. 

  (Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Jonathan Oatis) 

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