By Rich McKay
ATLANTA (Reuters) -A Georgia man on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder and other charges stemming from a shooting massacre at Atlanta-area day spas in March, for which the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty.
An attorney for Robert Aaron Long, 22, entered his plea at a brief hearing before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville in Atlanta.
Long is accused of killing a total of eight people, most of them of Asian descent, at three spas in or near Atlanta. He pleaded guilty in July to four of the slayings in Cherokee County.
The attacks in March galvanized an awareness of a wave of anti-Asian bias and violence across the United States during the coronavirus pandemic after former President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as "kung flu" or "China virus.
The Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has already filed paperwork in the court announcing that she would seek the death penalty and enhanced sentencing for hate crimes, based on the race and gender of the victims.
In a court hearing in Cherokee County in July, Long described how he purchased a firearm, a bottle of bourbon and set out to kill himself, claiming to feel remorseful for a self-proclaimed sex addiction.
Instead, he said he decided to carry out the spa shootings across two counties in metro Atlanta.
Long received four sentences of life in prison without parole in August for the shootings of Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Yan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
In Fulton County, he is charged with the killings of Yong Ae Yue, 63; Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; and Hyun Jung Grant, 51, at two Atlanta day spas.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis)