Death penalty trial for accused Atlanta spa shooter in limbo

Robert Aaron Long is seen during his arraignment in Fulton County Superior Court on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)

Three years after four women of Asian descent were shot and killed at spas in Fulton County, it remains unclear when the suspect will face his death penalty trial.

Robert Aaron Long pleaded guilty to killing four people at Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County on March 16, 2021 and was given a life sentence without parole for each one.

However, the now-24-year-old pleaded not guilty in Fulton County, where District Attorney Fani Willis is pursuing the death penalty and hate crime charges.

Prosecutors say Long drove about 30 miles from Cherokee County to Piedmont Road in Atlanta to continue his shooting spree.

Yong Ae Yue, 63, Soon Chung Park, 74, Suncha Kim, 69, and Hyun Jung Grant, 51, were all later shot and killed at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa.

Long’s defense attorneys with the Georgia Public Defender Council have filed dozens of motions over the years on his behalf, including some that push for his death penalty consideration to be taken off the table because of his age.

They have also challenged the composition of the Fulton County Grand Jury that indicted Long and asked for the media to be kept out of the courtroom, but those motions have been unsuccessful.

Chief Judge Ural Glanville, who presides over Long’s case, has been tied up in the high-profile racketeering case against Atlanta rapper Young Thug.

Long’s death penalty trial has also faced delays due to the court backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long’s defense lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.

According to online records, Long is being held at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, which also holds the state execution chamber.