Robert Aaron Long pleaded guilty to four other murder charges in July and will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
ATLANTA – A 22-year-old pleaded not guilty on four murder charges Tuesday A shooting at a string of spas in the Atlanta area stemmed from a stampede last spring.
The man, Robert Aaron Long, had previously pleaded guilty to four murder charges in Cherokee County, where the shooting spree began.
Mr Long has said he had a sex addiction and committed the murders to “punish” sex industry workers, and admitted to the March 16 shootings soon after he was caught, according to law enforcement. His not guilty plea, recorded by his attorney on his behalf in a downtown Atlanta courtroom during a brief appearance Tuesday morning, appears to be part of an effort to save his life. Prosecutors have indicated they want to seek the death penalty.
In March, a spate of killings at three spas began in suburban Cherokee County, outside Atlanta, where Mr Long shot five people, four of whom died. He pleaded guilty to those murders in July and was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without parole, plus an additional 35 years in prison.
It was a negotiated sentence that allowed him to avoid going to trial in Cherokee County, where prosecutors said he would pursue the death penalty. Mr Long is now facing trial in Fulton County for four murders he is accused of doing two spas in Atlanta.
Fannie T. Willis, the chief prosecutor for Fulton County, which covers much of Atlanta, filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty in May. Following Mr Long’s plea in Cherokee County, she said that Mr Long’s lawyers had contacted her office seeking a similar plea deal.
Although Ms Willis, a Democrat, has said she is generally ready to consider plea deals, she has indicated she will continue to pursue the death penalty in Mr Long’s case, at least for now.
Ms Willis’s office is also seeking increased punishment for the Atlanta murders, arguing that victims were targeted because of their “real or perceived race, national origin, sex and gender”. Mr. Long is white; Six of those killed, including all Atlanta victims, were women of Asian descent.
It is the first time prosecutors have invoked a Georgia hate crime law that was approved by lawmakers last year in response to the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, an African American man who was fatally shot after being chased by three white men. was given to those who doubted him. To steal in your neighborhood outside of Brunswick, Ga.
Those enhancements will have no material impact on Mr. Long, a landscaping company employee who will spend the rest of his life in prison, even if he is not executed. The Fulton County indictment against Mr Long covers a total of 19 counts, including charges of aggravated assault and domestic terrorism.
Ms Willis’s desire to seek the death penalty comes after her announcement as a candidate for the prosecutor’s job in 2020 that she Couldn’t “foresee” a case In which she will demand the death penalty.
Sean Keenan Contributed reporting.