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The gunman accused of killing eight people across three Atlanta-area spas earlier this year agreed to plead guilty to four of those deaths Tuesday—and was given four consecutive life sentences, plus another 35 years, without parole as a result.
Despite already being sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, the 22-year-old shooter could still face the death penalty if he’s convicted of the four other deaths, as those cases are being prosecuted in a separate county, according to the Associated Press. Tuesday’s sentence from Cherokee County Judge Ellen McElyea relates to those killed at Youngs Asian Massage, where the shooter’s alleged rampage began on March 16.
The massacre, which came during a wave of anti-Asian attacks, became a national flashpoint; despite attacking Asian-owned businesses, officials in Cherokee County said the shooter’s crimes didn’t appear to be motivated by racism but rather by his addiction to sex. One spokesperson for the local sheriff’s office described the slayings as part of a “bad day” in which the shooter “was pretty much fed up.”
It wasn’t clear that any of those killed were sex workers.
But the shooter had frequented Youngs before, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. On the day of the shooting, he watched porn, drank alcohol, and sat in the spa’s parking lot for about an hour, with an intention to kill himself, before changing his mind. Thinking that he wanted to “punish” the people inside instead, he entered the business, received service, then killed Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Yaun, and Paul Michels.
The shooter told the judge he decided that he “wanted to stop the places and basically punish the people that I could” in an apparent reference to his sexual addiction, which critics have said was used as a means to blame those killed while providing a scapegoat for their attacker, a white man.
After killing four and wounding one person at Youngs, Long allegedly moved on to two others in Atlanta: Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa. He’s accused of killing four more people—all of Asian descent—between those two locations.