Fulton DA continuing to seek death penalty, hate crime charges against spa shooting suspect

Robert Aaron Long, the man accused of killing eight people at three Atlanta-area spas in April, appeared in court Monday morning for his second hearing - this time in Atlanta. 

Long faces the death penalty in Fulton County for shootings at the Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa that killed 69-year-old Suncha Kim, 74-year-old Soon Chung Park, 51-year-old Hyun Jung Grant, and 63-year-old Yong Ae Yue, 63. All of the Atlanta victims were women of Asian descent. 

Escorted by a bailiff, Long walked into the Fulton courtroom for the first time Monday morning.

This was purely an administrative hearing. The judge asked the attorneys representing Long about their qualifications to represent him in a capital case. Long spoke briefly to say he did not object to them representing him.

Speaking to the press, Wilis confirmed that she served a notice of death as well as the request of a hate crime enhancement centered around what she called Long's biases connected to gender and race. 

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said she is comfortable with her death penalty decision. She said death penalty cases like this could take 24 to 36 months.

"Seeking justice - sometimes it's not swift and it takes a long time, but we're on that road," Willis said at a press conference after the hearing. 

Long had previously been charged in Fulton County with four counts of murder, four counts of felony murder, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and one count of domestic terrorism, according to online records.

In July, Long pleaded guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault, and more in a Cherokee County court related to the shootings at Youngs Asian Massage near Acworth. 

Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace said during the hearing that investigators found no evidence of racial bias in the killings there. She noted the diversity of the victims and said Long walked through Youngs Asian Massage "shooting anyone and everyone he saw."

Wallace said that if the case had gone to trial, she was prepared to seek the death penalty and would have argued that Long was motivated by gender bias. But after conversations with victims and families of victims, she agreed to a plea deal in the interest of swift justice and avoiding lengthy appeals.

In Atlanta, where all four of the victims were women of Asian descent, Willis said the killings were based on bias motivated by the actual or perceived race, national origin, sex and gender of the four women killed. The charges and the decisions to seek the death penalty and a sentencing enhancement under the hate crime law "send a message that everyone within this community is valued," Willis said.

Long is accused of killing 49-year-old Xiaojie "Emily" Tan, 44-year-old Daoyou Feng, 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, and 54-year-old Paul Michels at Youngs Asian Massage near Acworth on March 16. Long also shot and wounded a fifth person, investigators said. 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.