Atlanta Hostage Recounts Ordeal

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The woman held hostage in her apartment by the suspect in Atlanta's courthouse slayings said the two spent hours talking about the killings, their families and God and that Brian Nichols "just wanted some normalness to his life."

Ashley Smith said the ordeal began around 2 a.m. Saturday morning with Nichols sticking a gun in her side and tying her up. But Nichols, who is accused of killing three people at the courthouse Friday and a federal agent later, eventually let Smith go to see her young daughter, she said.

"I wanted to see my little girl the next morning and I didn't want him to hurt anybody else," . "And I knew that if I talked to him in the right way that he wouldn't."

Smith called 911 after she was freed, and police soon surrounded her suburban apartment complex. Nichols gave up peacefully, waving a white towel in surrender.

The crime spree began when Nichols allegedly overpowered a courthouse deputy escorting him to his rape trial Friday and took the deputy's gun, then entered the courtroom where his trial was being held and killed the presiding judge and court reporter. He also is accused of killing a deputy who tried to stop him outside the courthouse and a federal agent during his flight from authorities.

Smith said Nichols, 33, took her hostage in the parking lot of her apartment when she returned from a store.

"He said, 'I'm not going to hurt you if you just do what I say,"' she said. "I don't want to hurt you. I don't want to hurt anybody else."

She said Nichols tied her up with masking tape, a curtain and extension cord and told her to sit in the bathroom while he took a shower.

But as the night wore on, she tried to win Nichols' trust by telling him about her life.

"I knew if I made him feel comfortable then I could get things the way I wanted them and not the way he wanted them," Smith told The Early Show.

Smith told Nichols about her daughter and bonded with him after he said that he had a son who had been born the night before.

"My husband died four years ago, and I told him if he hurt me my little girl wouldn't have a mommy or daddy," Smith said.

Smith's attorney, Josh Archer, said her husband died in her arms after being stabbed.

He eventually untied her, and some of the fear lessened as they talked. Nichols told Smith he felt like "he was already dead," but Smith urged him to consider the fact that he was still alive a "miracle."

"You're here in my apartment for some reason," she told him, saying he might be destined to be caught and to spread the word of God to fellow prisoners. She also read the bible to Nichols, .

"He told me I was his angel, sent from God, and that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ," said Smith.

He eventually put down the guns police say he took when he overwhelmed sheriff's deputies, putting them on the floor and later under a bed.

When morning came, Nichols was "overwhelmed" when Smith made him pancakes, she said. They watched television news reports about the slaying and the manhunt for Nichols.

"I cannot believe that's me on there," Smith quoted Nichols as saying.

Smith said Nichols did not bring any weapons when he had her help him move a truck he had stolen away from the apartment complex.

When Nichols finally let Smith go, he said he wanted to stay at the apartment for a few more days, but she said she thought he knew she was going to call 911 after she left.

Police said they were impressed by the way Smith handled herself.

"Out of everybody, she was the hero in all of this," . "It was her calmness and resourcefulness that led this to a successful conclusion."

Walters said Smith's was even composed when she called 911.

"She was very calm and was able to express that she had Brian Nichols in her apartment and just provided us with information," said Walters.

Nichols could appear in federal court as early as Monday to face a charge of possession of a firearm by a person under indictment, the charge authorities are using to keep Nichols in custody while they sort out charging in the slayings, said U.S. Attorney David Nahmias.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard still would like to resolve Nichols' interrupted rape retrial, Friedly said. In that case, Nichols was accused of bursting into his ex-girlfriend's home with a machine gun, binding her with duct tape and sexually assaulting her over three days.

Meanwhile, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday that a courthouse surveillance camera recorded Nichols' initial surprise attack on Deputy Cynthia Hall but that no one in the control center noticed the assault.

A video camera, which is supposed to be monitored by two guards in a command post, shows the muscular, 33-year-old Nichols knocking the petite, 51-year-old grandmother backward, and locking her in a cell.

A few minutes later, he emerges in civilian clothes. He locks the door behind him and calmly walks out of the holding area, carrying Hall's gun belt, according to an official who saw the tape.

Nichols told police that on the way out, he used the deputy's keys to get her gun from a security lockbox.

It was not until after the shootings began that Hall was found on the cell floor.

Hall remained in critical condition Sunday, Grady Memorial Hospital officials said. Although hospital officials initially reported she may have suffered a grazing bullet wound to her forehead, they now believe she was struck on the head, said spokeswoman Denise Simpson.
  • Lloyd Vries

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