Robert Aaron Long, 22, pleaded guilty Tuesday to four of the eight murders
The gunman accused of killing eight people across three metro Atlanta spas has claimed he bought a gun to kill himself because of his sex obsession before deciding to ‘punish’ the people he blamed for his ‘addiction’.
Robert Aaron Long, 22, appeared in court in Cherokee County on Tuesday morning where he said he had originally planned to commit suicide on the day of the mass shooting back on March 16.
He said he loathed himself over his obsession with porn and sex – which he claimed to believe should only be between a married couple – and bought a gun to end his life.
Long told the court he was sitting in his car outside the first spa, drinking bourbon and trying to build up the ‘self-loathing’ to kill himself.
While he sat there, he said he decided to ‘punish’ the people who he blamed for his not having the ‘self-control’ to stop seeking sexual gratification.
The 22-year-old recounted his version of events as he pleaded guilty to four of the murders, sparing him the death penalty and landing him with life without parole for those slayings.
His statements in court were notable because the slayings, which targeted mostly Asian women, had been attributed to anti-Asian hate crimes in the aftermath of the horrific murders; his legal counsel say his killings weren’t part of anti-Asian bias.
Under the plea deal, he has admitted to all charges of malice murder, felony murder, attempt to commit murder and aggravated assault in Cherokee County.
These charges relate to the first four murders at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, a city about 32 miles northwest of Atlanta.
Long still faces the death penalty over the other four murders across the Gold Massage Spa and the Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta, which are being prosecuted in Fulton County.
He was indicted in Fulton County last month where he faces charges of domestic terrorism with a hate crime enhancement in addition to murder.
The white suspect is accused of going on a mass shooting rampage at two Asian massage parlors in Atlanta and one in Cherokee County back on March 16.
Eight people were killed in the attacks, six of them women of Asian descent.
They are: Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Soon C. Park, 44; Suncha Kim, 69, and 63-year-old Yong Yue.
A ninth victim – Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz, 30 – was shot in the throat, forehead, lungs and stomach, but survived.
He told the court he had originally planned to commit suicide that day and was sitting in his car outside the spa drinking bourbon when he decided to instead ‘punish’ other people
Long told the judge Tuesday he had struggled with his ‘obsessions’ with pornography and sex
Long cut a different figure from his mugshot as he appeared in court Tuesday clean-shaven, in glasses and in a white button-down shirt – with his miskempt beard gone.
He told the judge Tuesday he was living with a friend at the time of the shooting after being kicked out of his parents’ house a week earlier for paying for sex at a massage parlor.
He said his parents had learned about the incident because they were tracking his location with a tracking app on his phone.
Long said he had struggled with his ‘obsessions’ with pornography and sex and was feeling suicidal when he carried out the attacks.
‘I never felt like I had a lot of control over these urges and it became obsessive to the point it would preoccupy a lot of thought space and it’s hurt a lot of relationships in my life,’ he said in the hearing, streamed by 11Alive.
The 22-year-old said he had sought treatment but it did not seem to work.
On the day of the attacks he said he watched porn ‘most of the morning’.
He said his roommate ‘heard everything and asked if I wanted to talk about it.’
Long said he felt ’embarrassed and ashamed’ and got in his car and drove away.
‘That’s when I decided I wanted to kill himself due to a lot of feelings of hopelessness and my sexual struggles,’ he said.
When asked why he felt so ashamed of watching porn and what he called his ‘sexual struggles’, he said he believed it is ‘making sport’ out of something he believes should only be between a married couple.
Young’s Asian Massage, near Acworth, a city about 32 miles northwest of Atlanta in Cherokee County. Long pleaded guilty to the four murders at this spa
Law enforcement officials confer outside Gold Spa in Atlanta following the shooting on March 16. After killing four at Young’s Asian Massage he allegedly drove here, shooting and killing three
‘It’s taking something that I believe is meant for a monogamous relationship, making sport of it without any relationship efforts in it,’ he said.
Officials with the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office remove a body from the Gold Spa massage parlor
‘And essentially taking sex out of its context that I believe to be only correct in a marriage relationship.’
Long told the judge he went to a store and purchased a gun to commit suicide but ‘was scared of killing myself.’
He said he then went to a liquor store and bought some bourbon, before driving to Young’s Asian Massage with the aim of building up his ‘self-loathing’ in order to kill himself.
‘I decided to try and go there to act out the sexually received sexual favors and my hope was that I would hate myself enough at that point and possess enough self-loathing to end my own life,’ he said.
Long said he sat in front of the parlor drinking alcohol for about an hour and that it was then that he came up with a plan to kill other people who he blamed for his sexual habits.
‘[I was] deciding if I wanted to go in or end it then and there and I started feeling drunk and in that time period while I was sitting in the car was when I began thinking about killing other people inside there,’ he said.
‘The train of thought was – it was not remotely logical – nonetheless what was running through my mind was if I want to stop the places and basically punish the people, I could find the self control to stop seeing [them] for the purposes of sexual gratification,’ he said.
When asked by the judge why he felt the spa workers should be punished, he said: ‘I don’t know if punishing was the right word. In essence, I was blame shifting from myself onto… the women I was receiving the sexual favors from.’
Long said he went inside the parlor and paid for mutual masturbation. Afterward, he went to the bathroom.
When he came out of the bathroom, he opened fire on the people inside.
Shooting victim Hyun Jung Grant (left with her two sons) worked at the Gold Spa in Atlanta
Delaina Yaun, 34, (left) was a married mom-of-two who had arranged a spa day with her husband to relax from taking care of their new baby. She was killed but her husband escaped alive. Paul Michels, 54, (right) was an Army veteran who was installing a security system at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor in Cherokee County when he was shot dead
Yong Yue, 63, who is pictured with her two sons, was killed during the shootings in Atlanta
Xiaojie Tan, 49 (right), was the owner of Young’s Asian Massage spa; she is survived by her daughter Jami Webb (left), a recent University of Georgia graduate
Xiaojie Tan, 49 (right) and Daoyou Feng, 44 (left) were also killed in the March 16 mass shooting
Suncha Kim is pictured on left. She was one of the four victims killed in the shootings in Atlanta
Soon Chung Park (left) was also one of the Atlanta victims after Long traveled from Cherokee County to the two other spas
A ninth victim – Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz, 30 – was shot in the throat, forehead, lungs and stomach, but survived
Michels, a 54-year-old Army veteran who was installing a security system at Young’s, was the first person Long said he shot as he saw him leaning over a counter.
He said it ‘didn’t feel like more than five minutes’ from when he started shooting and when he left the spa, as he said his mind ‘was blank from the moment he opened fire.
He told the court he had visited the parlor many times prior to the day but did not recognize or know any of the people inside.
The 22-year-old said he had not been officially been diagnosed but had been prescribed medication for mental health issues before the March 16 shootings.
He said he had stopped taking the drugs in the weeks prior to the attacks.
The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize sex addiction in its main reference guide for mental disorders.
Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace told the court Tuesday Long was motivated by a ‘sex addiction’ and his desire to eliminate sources of his temptation, but said there was no evidence he was motivated by hate or prejudice against Asian people.
‘All of the evidence that was gathered with regard to Cherokee County, your honor, came to the same conclusion, that this crime was not motivated by a bias or hate against Asian Americans,’ she said.
‘This was not any kind of hate crime,’ she said.
She said authorities had investigated the killings as a possible hate crime but believed, if the case had gone to trial, prosecutors would not have been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was any motive based on race, ethnicity or gender.
People who knew him who were interviewed as part of the investigation said they never heard him make ‘racist statements about any other race not just Asian Americans,’ she said.
Long in court Tuesday where he said he bought a gun to kill himself because of his sex obsession before deciding to ‘punish’ the people he blamed for his ‘addiction
Long walked through the massage business in Woodstock ‘shooting anyone and everyone he saw,’ she added.
Wallace said prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty if Long didn’t plead guilty.
However, all the relatives of the victims they had been able to contact are supportive of the plea deal, she added.
Michels’ wife Bonnie Michels read out a victim impact statement telling how she had wanted to grow old with her husband of 24 years.
Survivor Hernandez-Ortiz said through a translator he was grateful to be alive but the incident had taken its toll on him and his family.
‘I used to sing and now I won’t be able to do it anymore,’ he said.
Cherokee County Judge Ellen McElyea sentenced Long to serve four lifetimes in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 35 years.
In the March 16 mass shooting, police said Long first opened fire at Young’s Asian Massage just before 5pm, killing four people – Xiaojie ‘Emily’ Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Yaun, and Paul Michels – there.
Three of the victims were women and two of Asian descent.
Long then drove south to Atlanta, where he shot and killed three women at Gold Massage Spa, police said.
He then allegedly crossed the street to the Aromatherapy Spa, shooting another victim dead there.
The four Atlanta victims are: Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, and Yong Ae Yue.
Long is seen in surveillance video from Gabby’s Boutique next to Young Asian’s Spa arriving and entering the spa
Long is later seen leaving the spa. He got in his car and then drove to the other two spas in Atlanta
Within minutes a few survivors exit the spa, followed by the arrival of cops and paramedics as one victim is seen on the sidewalk with blood flowing from a bullet wound to the head
One man who’d been getting a massage with his wife sat outside in handcuffs, as his wife lay dying inside. Police still hadn’t identified a suspect, so restrained him as a precaution.
Long then went on the run and was driving to Florida to target porn-industry locations when he was arrested 150 miles south of Atlanta.
Officers rammed his Hyundai off the road to take him into custody where he confessed to the killings.
Police said Long’s parents had called authorities after recognizing their son in still images from security video the Cherokee County Sheriff´s Office posted on social media.
His parents were already tracking his movements through an app on his phone, which enabled authorities to track him down Interstate 75, authorities said.
Long is scheduled to appear again next month in Fulton County, where District Attorney Fani Willis filed notice in May that she intends to seek a hate crime sentence enhancement along with the death penalty.
The 19-count Fulton County indictment includes charges of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and domestic terrorism.
All of the Atlanta victims were women of Asian descent.
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 must determine whether i’s motivated by bias, which carries an additional penalty.
Long told police following his arrest that the shootings were not racially motivated.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker drew criticism for saying Long had ‘a really bad day’ and ‘this is what he did’ in the days after the attack.
‘He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it´s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,’ he said.
This sparked outrage at a time when the Asian American community has increasingly been targeted in hate crimes amid the coronavirus pandemic.