Robert Aaron Long Sentenced to Life in Prison After Pleading Guilty to Spa Shootings

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
July 27, 2021 Updated: July 27, 2021

A Georgia man was sentenced to life in jail on Tuesday after pleading guilty to killing four people at Atlanta-area spas.

Cherokee County Superior Court Chief Judge Ellen McElyea handed down four consecutive life without parole sentences to Robert Aaron Long, 22, after he agreed to plead guilty to fatally shooting four people at an Acworth massage parlor on March 16.

Zachary Smith, one of Long’s court-appointed attorneys, said in a statement that the team worked with Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace on the deal.

“It is our hope that the Fulton County District Attorney follows D.A. Wallace’s example and agrees to a similar resolution in that county,” he said.

A Fulton County spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment, but Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has said she will pursue the death penalty in the case, which spanned the two counties.

After killing Xiaojie Tan, 49, Daoyou Feng, 44, Delaina Yaun, 33, and Paul Michels, 54, at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Long allegedly opened fire at two spas in northeast Atlanta, killing another four people.

Seven of the eight victims were female.

Other people were struck but survived.

Wallace told a press conference after Tuesday’s hearing that “justice was served.”

Families of victims who died, and the victims who recovered from their wounds, “are left knowing that this defendant will spend the rest of his natural life behind bars,” she added.

Wallace could have pursued the death penalty but decided against that. Victims and victims’ families did not want her to, she said, citing the years such a trial could have taken.

Michael Webb, the ex-husband of victim Xiaojie “Emily” TanTan, said the family was “very satisfied” with the plea.

In court, Wallace said evidence did not show the shootings were a hate crime.

When Long walked through the first spa “shooting anyone and everyone he saw,” Wallace said he told investigators he was motivated by a “sex addiction” and his desire to eliminate sources of temptation at businesses where he engaged in sex acts. Investigators interviewed people who’d known him for years, including three of Asian descent, who said they’d never heard him say anything derogatory about any racial or ethnic group, Wallace said.

Epoch Times Photo
Robert Aaron Long of Woodstock in Cherokee County poses in a jail booking photograph after he was taken into custody by the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office in Cordele, Ga., on March 16, 2021. (Crisp County Sheriff’s Office via Reuters)
Epoch Times Photo
Friends and families of the victims listen during the plea hearing for spa shooting suspect Robert Aaron Long in the Superior Court of Cherokee County in Canton, Ga., on July 27, 2021. (Ben Gray/Pool/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Long told the court that he decided to enter Young’s, where he had been before, to “basically punish the people that I could,” local media reported.

He described how his mind “felt like it was blank” when he pulled the trigger and that he believed the first set of shootings lasted no longer than five minutes. He also said he did not recognize any of the victims.

Long had told police officers after his arrest that he was addicted to porn and motivated to kill by “sexual addiction,” not racial animus.

Many of the victims were Asians.

Long is scheduled to appear again next month in Fulton County, where Willis filed notice that she intends to seek what is called a hate crime sentence enhancement, as well as the death penalty.

Georgia’s new hate crimes law does not provide for a stand-alone hate crime. After a person is convicted of an underlying crime, a jury determines whether it was motivated by bias, which carries an additional penalty.

Police said that after the shootings at the two Atlanta spas, Long got back into his car, and authorities said he intended to carry out similar crimes in Florida.

By then, Long’s parents had called authorities after recognizing their son in images from security video that the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office posted on social media. His parents were already tracking his movements through an application on his phone so they would know if he visited massage businesses, the prosecutor said, and that enabled authorities to find him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.