Months before Robert Aaron Long was charged with carrying out a bloody rampage at three massage parlors that horrified the nation and stoked a furious outcry over anti-Asian violence, the 21-year-old suspect who had grown up in a conservative Baptist church appeared fixated on guilt and lust.
As investigators on Thursday pieced together whether and how racism and sexism might have motivated Tuesday’s attacks, people who knew Mr. Long offered new details about a dangerous collision of sexual loathing and what a former roommate described as “religious mania” that marked his life in the years before the shooting spree.
Mr. Long, whose church strictly prohibited sex outside of marriage, was distraught by his failed attempts to curb his sexual urges, said Tyler Bayless, a former roommate who lived with Mr. Long at a halfway house near Atlanta for about five months beginning in August 2019.
Nearly once a month, Mr. Long would admit he had again relapsed by visiting a massage parlor for sex, Mr. Bayless said, and he once asked Mr. Bayless to take his computer away from him.
In early 2020, Mr. Long moved from the halfway house for more intensive treatment at HopeQuest, a Christian addiction center, and the two men fell out of touch, Mr. Bayless said.
“I think he just felt like he could not be trusted out there alone,” Mr. Bayless added, referring to Mr. Long’s inability to stop visiting the spas.
The Atlanta police said on Thursday that Mr. Long had been a customer at two spas in the city that were targeted in the attacks that killed eight people over all, including six women of Asian descent. They did not specify whether he had sought anything more than a massage.