The man accused in the shooting deaths of eight people at three Atlanta-area Asian-run spas pleaded guilty Tuesday to four counts of murder in suburban Cherokee County, where he is now facing four consecutive sentences of life in prison without parole.
But 22-year-old Robert Aaron Long still possibly faces the death penalty if convicted in four more shooting deaths in nearby Fulton County, outside Atlanta, where he also faces charges of domestic terrorism in addition to murder.
Long was arrested March 16 after a shooting spree at three Asian-run massage parlors outside Atlanta left eight people dead. Six of those killed were of Asian descent, and two were white. A ninth person was injured.
At the time, the shooting created a wave of fear in the Asian American community, which was already reeling from rising violence against Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic, after the virus first surfaced in China in December 2019.
But prosecutors said shortly after the arrest that they would not pursue hate crime charges against Long, who is white, as their investigation indicated the killings were motivated by a sex addiction and not race.
Long entered his plea Tuesday in Cherokee County Court, where he made his first public comments about the killings. He told the court how he purchased a firearm and a bottle of bourbon and set out to kill himself. He said he thought he would drive himself to do it by going to the massage parlors and paying for sex, which he viewed as sinful.
But he told the court he decided instead to attack the sex industry.
Long still faces 19 felony counts in Fulton County, including charges of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and domestic terrorism.
Some information in this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters news agencies.