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Suspect in Atlanta-area spa shootings pleads guilty to 4 murder charges

He faces additional charges in massacre that killed 8

A person mourns outside Gold Spa in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage for The Washington Post)

The man accused of killing eight people in the Atlanta-area spa shootings pleaded guilty to four murder charges in Cherokee County Tuesday. He will face four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Robert Aaron Long is accused of killing eight people across two counties in a rampage at three Atlanta-area spas last March. Nearly all of the victims were women of Asian descent. Long faces four additional murder charges in Fulton County, where the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty.

A Cherokee County prosecutor said Tuesday investigators saw no evidence of racial bias — a finding that is at odds with charges Long faces in Atlanta, where the top prosecutor has said she plans to seek a hate-crime sentence enhancement along with the death penalty.

Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, said Long attacked four Korean American women there because of their race and gender. Long, who is also facing charges of domestic terrorism in that case, is scheduled to be in court next month.

“If you harm any member of our community, you are going to be held accountable,” Willis said in November. “It does not matter your ethnicity, it does not matter what side of the tracks you come from, it does not matter your wealth, you will be treated as an individual with value.”

Long is scheduled to be arraigned in Fulton County on Aug. 23.

Long and his lawyer said Tuesday that Long had no mental health issues, and that he understood the difference between right and wrong.

Despite the diversity of Asian experiences in the U.S., the deaths of the Atlanta spa shooting victims resonated throughout the community in familiar ways. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post, Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/The Washington Post)

The March shootings unfolded over several hours across metro Atlanta. Police say a shooter first targeted Youngs Asian Massage, killing four people. The same shooter then drove to Atlanta, where he killed three women at Gold Spa. He then went across the street to Aromatherapy Spa and fatally shot another woman, police say.

Long’s parents contacted authorities after seeing images of their son posted on the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office’s social media page.

Long’s parents had already been tracking his movements via an application on his phone, the prosecutor said. Police apprehended Long in Crisp County, about 140 miles south of Atlanta. An officer bumped their car into Long’s SUV, spinning Long into a stop.

Officials identified those killed in the Cherokee County shootings as: Delaina Ashley Yaun, Daoyou Feng, 44; Xiaojie Yan, 49; and Paul Andre Michels, 54.

The March shootings sent a wave of fear and anger through the Asian American community, already reeling from an uptick in violence against Asian Americans. Protests erupted across the country in the days and weeks following the shootings, with demonstrators denouncing anti-Asian hate, misogyny and xenophobia.

Holly Bailey contributed to this report.