July 27 (UPI) -- The man accused of killing eight people earlier this year at Atlanta-area massage parlors will spend the rest of his life in prison after he pleaded guilty in court to several of the murders.
Robert Aaron Long went on a shooting spree in March at three different parlors. In court Tuesday, prosecutors said they'd reached a deal with Long to plead guilty to the four deaths that occurred in Cherokee County, just north of Atlanta, in exchange for life without parole.
He still faces the death penalty for the other four deaths, which are being prosecuted in Fulton County.
As part of his deal with Cherokee County prosecutors, Long pleaded to four counts of murder and 23 other charges relating to the shooting at Young's Asian Massage Parlor.
Most of the victims, six, were women of Asian heritage.
The four victims involved in Tuesday's plea deal were Xiaojie "Emily" Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54. Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz was injured in the gunfire.
"I don't recall thinking much after I pulled the trigger first," Long said in court Tuesday, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. "My mind felt like it was blank."
Long, 22, previously told police that his addiction to porn led to his wanting to commit suicide, and that he was thinking about killing himself outside of a massage parlor that he would frequent.
The attacks led to outrage from many in the Asian-American community, which had already been grappling with a rise in violence over the past year and a half due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have surged in the United States, according to statistics from Stop AAPI Hate.
The group showed in a May report that there were 3,800 self-reported incidents of discrimination and hate directed at Asian Americans between March 2020 and February 2021, but that number almost doubled in March alone to 6,600.
At Tuesday's hearing, prosecutors told the court that Long's attacks were not racially motivated. The additional four murder charges he faces in Atlanta, however, include a special consideration that says the shootings were motivated by race.