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Courthouse Killer's Hostage Ordeal Detailed

During her hours with Brian Nichols, Ashley Smith talked about her 5-year-old daughter and her late husband. She told Nichols if he killed her, he would leave her daughter an orphan. Photo: CURTIS COMPTON/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Ashley Smith was the female hostage apparently chosen at random by Atlanta courtroom killer Brian G. Nichols, She's got a heck of a story to tell, and it's just now starting to be told in her own words.

Smith helped end the 26-hour manhunt for a man accused of killing a judge and three others had long talks with her captor during of the 7 hours she was held in her own apartment, police said Sunday.

She talked about her young daughter. She talked about her late husband. And she talked about God. During the more than seven hours she was held hostage inside her apartment, sometimes at gunpoint, the woman talked about her life until, somehow, she was able to persuade the gunman to untie her and let her go.

After hours of talking about the killings, their families and God, Ashley Smith said Brian Nichols "just wanted some normalness to his life."

Smith said Nichols eventually unbound her hands and feet. She spoke with him about her desire to visit her daughter at 10 a.m. The child was not at the apartment, which she was in the process of moving into, during the incident.

Smith said she asked Nichols why he chose her. "He said he thought I was an angel sent from God," she said.

Smith called 911 after she was freed, and police soon surrounded her suburban apartment complex. Nichols, who police say killed three people in the courthouse Friday and a federal agent later, gave up peacefully, waving a white towel in surrender.

"I honestly think when I looked at him that he didn't want to do it anymore," Smith said in a statement televised on CNN. If he didn't give up, she told him, "Lots more people are probably going get hurt and you're probably going to die."

Sunday night, after recounting her time with Nichols, Smith says she has found some purpose to his finding her.

"I believe God brought him to my door so he couldn't hurt anyone else," she says.

As Gwinnett County Police Chief Charles Walters said, "The bottom line is that law enforcement had no idea where he was - this victim, the community owes a tremendous debt to her because she kept her calm and provided us with the information that ultimately led to the arrest," .

You'll be hearing lots more of the Ashley Smith story as the days go by.

[Full transcript of Ashley Smith's press conference]

Related: Former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt has an interesting article on how three of the people unfortunate enough to get caught up in Nichols 'human tsunami' survived.

Compiled from AP Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and CNN reports.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Courthouse Killer's Hostage Ordeal Detailed:

» Boughyah linked with Atlanta 'running man' caught

» Myopic Zeal linked with Ashley Smith, Brian Nichols' Hostage

Comments (24)

Okay, fix paragaph 1. So, ... (Below threshold)

Okay, fix paragaph 1. So, why didn't the creep take off and make a run for it when he let her go?

why didn't the creep tak... (Below threshold)

why didn't the creep take off and make a run for it when he let her go?

I'm betting that's a question only Brian Nichols can answer.

But . . . but . . . I'm ask... (Below threshold)

But . . . but . . . I'm asking you, Daddy McGehee.

Unfortunately, Georgia is no Texas. They seem to average 2 or 3 executions a year with delays from 19 to 30 years. On a brighter note, they have started the New Year out right and already executed two murderers with only delays of 13 and 14 years.

Geraldo just interviewed he... (Below threshold)

Geraldo just interviewed her. I guess that there is no lengths that he will go to get a story. What I want to know why when someone kills another person, he is always looking at a cult or a so-called White Supremacist to blame.

Because there's a lot more ... (Below threshold)

Because there's a lot more to be sold on the idea of disrupting common stereotypes such as the African-American murderer. Black guy kills x doesn't surprise people or sell much compared to the limited conspiracy theory.

I believe Nichols is too old for the 'violent video games' defense, so thankfully we won't find a new category starting up from the ESRB, but that doesn't kick out the cliched ideals of being pressed into his actions or being forced by his environment. That, of course, is the constant fallbacks in case there's no loose thread to tie to anyone higher up in the ranks.

Very interesting stories, somewhere in here. Not that we'll ever have a chance to see them, that's far beyond the reach of Geraldo. Anyone that can avoid falling to Stockholm syndrome-like action or some strange desire to hide from the world deserves some respect, possibly some airtime.

Way, way, way back when my ... (Below threshold)

Way, way, way back when my family was staying at Hampton Beach in NH, my aunt brought one of her young daughters to where we were staying. Since she was almost my age, we kind of hung around together. They lived in North Andover out in the boonies, houses miles apart and as my aunt was coming home from work, she saw her daughter pushing her bike down the road. They both stopped and a few minutes they took off home. It was only a short spice of time before my cousin should have come around the bend with her bike but she never did. So my aunt walked down the driveway and started down the street when she found the bike on the side of the road.

My cousin had been kidnapped, raped, tied to a tree, beaten - and throughout the whole thing - mind you, she was only 12 years ago - TALKED. She talked and talked and talked and talked. Her talking kept her ALIVE. He could not shut her up no matter what he did, she just kept talking. Eventually he untied her from the tree and tried to tie rocks to her body - all the while,she kept talking. He threw her in a pond to drown but she got loose and naked went to the nearest house that she could find. If she had not talked and talked and talked, she would not be alive today.

Many years later, we were at a wedding when she told me about this rapist and she just had a bad feeling about it, so she called the police and asked if this person was out of prison. He was and he was the person who had raped this other little girl one week after his release. They caught him because she let them know who it was. When he did what he did to her, he was in his early twenties, married, 2 small children so they knew where to find him all those years later. I'm sorry, but rapists should never be let out of jail.

As to this guy, why in hell were there guns in the courtroom? How many times have we seen that even on TV? It happens too often, so I think our court system has to make some changes. This man should have been in shakles - the kind that go around the ankles, up to your waist where the hands are connected and they can't move. THEN guns in the courtroom can't be taken from those who carry them and dangerous people like him can't steal it from whomever is escorting them. SHACKLES ALL THE WAY - NO QUESTIONS ASKED.


Julie,He didn't ta... (Below threshold)


He didn't take off from that girl's apartment; he let her go, probably because he couldn't stand her talking anymore but it was her talking that saved her life. Smart girl.


Does Georgia have the death... (Below threshold)

Does Georgia have the death penalty? Well, it will either be that or life in prison without the change of parole - they used to call it "life plus one."
Which means that is where he will die no matter what they have as a penalty.


This man will be fast-track... (Below threshold)

This man will be fast-tracked to the electric chair, gallows, lethal injection, etc.; the only debate will be "is he killed under the auspices of Federal or State jurisdiction?". Oh, this "alleged" multi-felon get his "due process" which is infinitely more than can be said of his "alleged" victims, dead and alive. If he doesn't receive death, there will be an outcry like you haven't seen in a long while. You can bet that the good citizens of Georgia will not stand by if Nichols stands tall. Further, they'll have an entire nation of support behind them.

If there is a portrait of an indefensible defendant in the law books, Nichols is it. Maybe Sean Penn will act it out someday and Susan Sarandon will act as the saving grace (oh, the irony).

she's a babe...just goes to... (Below threshold)

she's a babe...just goes to show you that a woman incessantly nagging will get a guy so annoyed he'll do anything to get rid of her...

My question was why he didn... (Below threshold)

My question was why he didn't run -- not if he ran.
While I am happy that she is alive and appears to be unharmed, I don't believe for a second in he found Jesus, so to speak.

Talkking is not the same as... (Below threshold)

Talkking is not the same as incesantly nagging, Henry. Besides, talking iw no=samed by then 23

. OverIt's what kept Pver

um cindy...... (Below threshold)

um cindy...


hit preview first....THEN post >.

Typos are mandatory and 'I'... (Below threshold)

Typos are mandatory and 'I'm only human.


We in Georgia have been scr... (Below threshold)

We in Georgia have been screaming for years at the lax security at the Fulton county courthouse. I posted on it a couple of days ago, its a sordid affair of mismanagement and just plain irresponsibility by the courthouse and the county commissioners. Somebody was going to get killed and they did

Let us all think about the ... (Below threshold)

Let us all think about the big picture here. Is it posssible that Ashley Smith knew Brian Nichols? I think so> What? Going to get cigarettes at 2:00 in the morning, returning home to see a weirdo sittin" in a truck and still got out of the car. Random apartment complex. I am not so sure! I think that he rested. they talked up a story which would keep her in the clear and went with it.After all, he did like caucasian women???????

Okay, maybe everyone knows ... (Below threshold)

Okay, maybe everyone knows this already. The female deputy, who is described as 51 and petite, was taking a handcuff Nichols to a holding cell to change into street clothes for trial. She gets one cuff off when Nicholls lunges at her, knocking her into another area outside of view. Oh yes, there was a video camera and two deputies were supposed to be monitoring what was going on.
Next, the camera shows him exiting with her gunbelt and radio. He has to walk across some catwalk (?) that took him from the new courthouse to the old courthouse.

Here, my memory is a bit vague, he took an atty and some other people hostage and locked them in the courtroom or another courtroom. He locked up some other people, including the judge's secretary in chambers. He locked a deputy in a closet. He entered the courtoom and shot the judge and the court reporter and left.

At this time an alarm goes off. But no one is aware that the first deputy has been critically injured. Someone dropped the ball big time.

Let us all think about the ... (Below threshold)
Biz Teacher:

Let us all think about the big picture here. Is it posssible that Ashley Smith knew Brian Nichols? I think so>

I agree with you Melt. Bridgewater in Duluth is not somewhere you visit unless you know someone who lives there. She knew him.

some of you are asking the ... (Below threshold)
david hume:

some of you are asking the question: did Nichols rape Smith? I believe we will find out the answer to this later, maybe a year later, when she finally tells the entire story. she is holding something back, it is obvious from her body language. get ready for a big fall, everyone!

I think what she's holding ... (Below threshold)

I think what she's holding back is that they concocted this whole tale and knew each other somehow.
I'm all for helping a brother out, but I stop at following him around town to dump off his car-jacked car.
I'm not saying a good Christian, pancake making black-rooted single mom can't talk you into getting your life together, but not after you've just offed four people.

I want everyone to know tha... (Below threshold)

I want everyone to know that most Black people in Atlanta and in other states do not believe this woman's story. She wants us to believe that this man was undone by having "real" butter on his pancakes. This is a big joke within the Black community. Some seem to think that if they sent her to Iraq with a big old plate of buttered pancakes, that that should stop the war.

Fulton County is a mess. Prisoners keep escaping and even a rap music video was shot there last year.

The police are ashamed and this also plays into the powerful conservative right's platform. I bet there are some very, very powerful political people of the religious right persuasion leaning on the media and the cops to play this story up the way it has been.

I mean, no one is investigating this story or this woman in depth. When you follow a murderer in your own vehicle and then wait while he dumps said vehicle, and then you let him back into your car and drive him back to your place----you are no longer a hostage.

She states that she called the police as soon as he released her to go visit her daughter on her cell phone in the car!

I have yet to see her on television, but most people are said to be blown away by her utter "coolness." Most say that she is too unflapped to have been a hostage to a desperado such as this beast of a man.

Most people, excluding Whites for SOME reason, believe that she previously knew this man.

I work for a newspaper. We'... (Below threshold)

I work for a newspaper. We've been trying to make the connection because none of us (for the most part) buy her story either.
Does anyone have ANY idea of how to connect the two?
Those must've been some awesome pancakes. Or else "pancakes" is code word for a little some'thin, some'thin else.

I agree with MELT, there is... (Below threshold)

I agree with MELT, there is more to this story than we have been reading/seeing. It may be another "Saving Private Jessica Lynch" story. I believe Brian and Ashley dated. Why else would he take a chance on a very public commuter train to go from downtown Atlanta to a housing complex where few if any Blacks live and "Happen To" see Ms Smith at 2:00 AM ? He knew where to go and they concocted this story to put her in the clear. A "REAL" reporter who is not afraid to buck this administration will get to the bottom of this in due time.

A "REAL" reporter who is no... (Below threshold)

A "REAL" reporter who is not afraid to buck this administration will get to the bottom of this in due time.

A "REAL" reporter also works with facts, Dennis, and the facts are no one has any proof the bimbo knew the thug. None of us buy her crap, but there isn't much we "real" reporters can do if no one is coming forward.
Also, where did you get your information that he went to a housing complex where few if any blacks live? Have you been to that apartment complex? It's dark as night.






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