On Tuesday, July 27, justice was partially served when a Cherokee County courthouse sentenced Robert Aaron Long, the shooter in the March 2021 Atlanta-area spa attacks that left eight people dead (six of whom were women of Asian descent), to four consecutive life sentences after he pleaded guilty to all four murder charges. For the remaining murders, for which he has yet to be officially charged, the district attorney in the neighboring Fulton County said she will be seeking the death penalty.
Minyvonne Burke of NBC News reported that “Cherokee County Superior Court Chief Judge Ellen McElyea handed down the sentence for Long on Tuesday, more than four months after the March 16 rampage inside Young’s Asian Massage. Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Xiaojie Tan, 49, and Daoyou Feng, 44, were killed. That same day, Long is accused of fatally shooting four others at two [additional] spas in Atlanta.”
According to Burke, “the guilty plea and the sentence were part of a deal announced during the proceeding.”
“Long was indicted on 23 charges related to the Cherokee County shootings, including malicious murder, felony murder and aggravated assault,” she said. “Although the state said several of the charges will either merge or be vacated by the law, he pleaded guilty to every charge as part of an agreement.”
Prosecutors working on the case recommended that McElyea sentence Long to four life sentences without the possibility of parole and with an additional 35 years, and the judge agreed with the recommendation.
In a press conference following Long’s sentencing, Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace said that families of those killed in the attacks didn’t want to pursue the death penalty in the case, preferring the shooter spend every remaining day of his life in jail, “faced with the memories of his own monstrosity.”
Evidence involved in the case showed that Long first began his murderous afternoon by entering Young’s Asian Massage armed with a handgun he had purchased earlier in the day. He was carrying 17 bullets in his pocket and had a box with another 50 in reserve. Long paid for a service, and when it was complete, he emerged from the spa’s bathroom and began shooting, killing Michels first and then Feng.
He then found and shot Tan, who was hiding in one of the spa’s many rooms. Long then shot another spa customer in the face — fortunately, the man survived, but the bullet from the attack is still “lodged” in his body.
The assault ended when Long moved into another room and found Yaun and her husband Mario Gonzalez, who had come to the spa for a couple’s massage. Yaun was killed, but her husband and six additional customers and employees survived the attack.
“The entire shooting spree at the spa lasted less than 10 minutes,” Burke reported. “Prosecutors said evidence shows Long left the business at around 4:50 p.m. and drove to Atlanta, where he is accused of carrying out the two other shootings. Six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent.”
Long was arrested after his parents saw his photo on the news and then passed tracking info from his phone to authorities.
Following his sentencing in Cherokee County, Long will next appear in Fulton County Court in August, where he will be tried for the other four lives he mercilessly took.