Following the indictment, Fulton DA Fani Willis filed notice that she is seeking the death penalty — a move that comes a year after she spoke out against capital punishment while running for the office. Cherokee DA Shannon Wallace said no decision has been made about whether she will also seek the death penalty.
“Last year, I told the voters of Fulton County that I could not imagine a circumstance where I would seek it,” Willis said at a news conference late Tuesday. “And at that time, I did not. Unfortunately, a case has arisen in the first few months of my term that I believe warrants it.”
Investigators believe Long’s killing spree started at Youngs Asian Massage near Acworth, where he shot five people, killing four. Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Xiaojie Tan, 49, and Daoyou Feng, 44, all died from their injuries.
From there, Long is accused of driving 30 miles to Atlanta, where he again targeted spas, police have said.
Atlanta officers were called to a report of a robbery at the Gold Spa, located at 1916 Piedmont Road. Inside, officers found three women dead from gunshot wounds, according to Sgt. John Chafee. While investigating that incident, officers were told shots were fired across the street at the Aromatherapy Spa. There, investigators found another woman shot to death.
Yong Ae Yue, 63, Soon Chung Park, 74, Suncha Kim, 69, and Hyun Jung Grant, 51, were killed in the Atlanta businesses.
Credit: Family photos
Credit: Family photos
Later that night, Long was arrested in Crisp County, about 150 miles south of Atlanta. He was later charged with murder in both Cherokee and Fulton counties. After his arrest, Long told investigators he was overwhelmed by what he described as a sexual addiction at odds with his religious beliefs, authorities said.
Though Willis filed paperwork Tuesday to seek the death penalty, only one Georgia jury has handed down a death sentence during the past seven years. That occurred in April 2019 when a Gwinnett County jury sentenced Tiffany Moss to die by lethal injection for starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter to death, then trying to burn the child’s corpse inside a trash can. In that case, Moss represented herself as her own lawyer and put up no defense.
And Willis herself has publicly spoken out against capital punishment. The former chief deputy in the Fulton DA’s office, who ousted her former boss Paul Howard, said on the campaign trail that none of the hundreds of murders she had prosecuted were appropriate for the death penalty.
But Tuesday, Willis said the facts in this case warrant the death penalty.
Willis also intends to pursue hate crime charges, the first time it will happen in Fulton, she said. Of the eight people killed, six were Asian women, prompting many to believe the crimes were racially motivated.
Credit: Christina Matacotta
Credit: Christina Matacotta
Georgia’s hate law went into effect in June and provides sentencing guidelines for anyone convicted of targeting a victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.
If Long is convicted of a felony and the crime is found to be motivated by hate, a judge could impose additional penalties. Someone convicted of committing a hate crime would face at least two additional years for a felony and a fine up to $5,000.
In Cherokee, Wallace declined to speak publicly, but she released an emailed statement.
“The charges in this indictment were determined based on a comprehensive investigation of Robert Aaron Long and the mass shooting that occurred at Youngs Asian Massage in Woodstock,” Wallace said. “The investigation was conducted by federal and local law enforcement agencies, in conjunction with the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office. Today we have taken another step forward in seeking justice for the victims of this crime and for their family members.”
Long remains in the Cherokee jail, where he is being held without bond. He will face arraignments in both counties, but those hearings have not been scheduled.
— Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this article.
THE STORY SO FAR
March 16: Eight people were killed at shootings at three spas in Cherokee and Fulton counties. The first shootings happened shortly before 5 p.m. near Acworth. About an hour later, two more shootings were reported at spas on Piedmont Road. Later that night, police arrested the suspect, Robert Aaron Long.
March 17: At a joint news conference, Atlanta police and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office announced Long had been charged with eight counts of murder. He was being held at the Cherokee jail.
Tuesday: A Fulton County grand jury indicted Long on four counts of murder. Fulton DA Fani Willis also filed documents to seek the death penalty and charge Long with hate crimes. Later Tuesday, a Cherokee County grand jury also indicted Long on four counts of murder.