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.