ATLANTA -- The woman held hostage in her apartment by the suspect in Atlanta's courthouse slayings said yesterday that her ordeal began with the man sticking a gun in her side and tying her up, but ended as he let her go to see her young daughter.
After hours of talking about the killings, their families, and God, Brian Nichols ''just wanted some normalness to his life," Ashley Smith 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 told CNN. If he didn't give up, she told him, ''Lots more people are probably going to get hurt and you're probably going to die.' "
''She acted very cool and levelheaded. We don't normally see that in our profession," said Gwinnett County police Officer Darren Moloney. ''It was an absolutely best-case scenario that happened, a complete opposite of what you expected to happen. We were prepared for the worst and got the best."
Nichols, 33, could appear in federal court as early as today to face a charge of possession of a firearm by a person under indictment, the charge authorities are using to keep him in custody while they sort out charges for the slayings, said US Attorney David Nahmias.
The Fulton County district attorney's office expects to formally charge Nichols with the additional crimes within 30 days, spokesman Erik Friedly said.
Nichols allegedly overpowered a courthouse deputy escorting him to his rape trial Friday, took the deputy's gun, entered the courtroom where his trial was to be held, and killed the presiding judge and a 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.
Smith said Nichols took her hostage in the parking lot outside her apartment when she returned from a store about 2 a.m. ''He said: 'I'm not going to hurt you if you just do what I say. . . . I don't want to hurt anybody else,' " Smith said.
She said Nichols tied her up with masking tape, a curtain, and an extension cord and told her to sit in the bathroom while he took a shower. ''I thought he was going to strangle me," she said.
Smith said that as the night wore on, she won his trust. She said she told Nichols that her husband died four years ago and that if he hurt her, her little girl wouldn't have a parent.
When Nichols told Smith he felt like ''he was already dead," she told him he might be destined to be caught and to spread the word of God to fellow prisoners.