ATLANTA -- Ringed by 19 officers in a cinder block jail room, his hands and ankles shackled, the man accused in a series of shootings that left an Atlanta judge and three others dead went before a judge yesterday for the first time since the rampage.
Authorities informed Brian Nichols, 33, that he will be charged with murder.
Nichols looked straight ahead during the five-minute hearing and did not make eye contact with anyone in the room, including the judge. He spoke only once, when Judge Frank Cox asked him whether he had any questions.
''Not at this time," he said.
Nichols was held without bail on the rape charge for which he was on trial Friday, when he allegedly overpowered a guard at the Fulton County courthouse and stole her gun. Police said Nichols started a rampage that terrorized Atlanta and left four people dead.
Authorities took no chances for the hearing at the Fulton County Jail.
All prisoners booked into the jail make their first appearance before a judge inside the jail, not at the courthouse. But 19 officers -- almost five times the usual number-- packed the small room, and several more officers blocked the hall outside.
Prosecutor Michele McCutcheon informed Cox that the state will pursue four charges of murder against Nichols.
Nichols is accused of killing the judge on his rape case and two others at the courthouse, then killing a federal agent while on the run.
After a 26-hour manhunt, he was captured Saturday at an apartment complex where he had taken a woman hostage.
The hostage, Ashley Smith, read a religious book to Nichols before he freed her, and she called 911. Governor Sonny Perdue said she will receive a $10,000 reward.