Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero

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9780786283286: Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero

In March 2005, Ashley Smith made headlines around the globe when she miraculously talked her way out of the hands of alleged courthouse killer Brian Nichols after he took her hostage for seven hours in her suburban Atlanta apartment. In this moving, inspirational account, the twenty-seven-year- old widowed mother of a six-year-old girl shares for the first time the little-known details of her traumatic ordeal and expands on how her faith and the bestselling book The Purpose-DrivenLife helped her survive and bring the killer's murderous rampage to a peaceful end. Like her captor, Smith too has faced darkness and despair. Yet even during the most desolate times of her life, she yearned for something better. Seeking a new life, she moved to Atlanta, got a job, enrolled in a medical assistant training program, and was beginning to find her way to becoming the kind of mom she wanted her little girl to have. Then Brian Nichols took her hostage. Just hours earlier, he'd allegedly shot to death a judge, a court reporter, a deputy, and a federal agent and escaped in a stolen vehicle. Ashley had paid only passing attention to media coverage of the unfolding manhunt. Now she found herself face-to-face with Nichols, a desperate, heavily armed man with nothing left to lose. Unlikely Angel is Ashley's gripping, powerful account of how this nightmare scenario developed into a remarkable connection between a man wanted for multiple murders and a single mother struggling to make a fresh beginning from her troubled past. Juxtaposing the minute-by-minute tale of her experience with the never-before-told tragedies and triumphs of her own life, Unlikely Angelis a story that will leave no reader untouched. Ashley has made appearances on Oprah, Good Morning America, 20/20, and Larry King Live.

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About the Author:

Ashley Smith -- A native of Augusta, Georgia, Ashley lives with her family and six-year-old daughter, Paige, and is active in her church. Ashley believes that God led her through the dark hours with Nichols and that she is called to use the highly publicized experience to help people find their purpose. Ashley will devote some of the royalties she earns from this book to create a memorial that will serve as a permanent tribute to the victims.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Unlikely Angel Copyright 2005 by Paigeturner, Inc. Requests for information should be addressed to: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Smith, Ashley, 1978-- Unlikely angel : the untold story of the Atlanta hostage hero / Ashley Smith with Stacy Mattingly. p. cm. ISBN-10: 0-310-27067-7 ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27067-6 1. Smith, Ashley, 1978-- 2. Hostages---Georgia---Atlanta. 3. Violence---Religious aspects--- Christianity. 4. Nichols, Brian. 5. Warren, Richard, 1954-- Purpose-driven life. I. Stacy Mattingly. II. Title BR1725.S49A3 2005 277.58'231083'092 --- dc22 2005020936 This edition printed on acid-free paper. Acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint portions of The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren. Copyright 2002 by Rick Warren. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means --- electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other --- except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Published in association with the literary agency of Calvin W. Edwards, 1220 Austin Glen Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30338. Some of the names in this book have been changed. Article on page 16 of the photo insert: Copyright 2005 by United Press International. Used by permission. Photography credits All insert photographs are courtesy of the author, except for: Page 1 (top): Davis Turner/Getty Images; page 1 (bottom left): Splash News/NewsCom; page 1 (bottom right): Curtis Compton/NewsCom; page 12 (top): Davis Turner/Getty Images; page 12 (bottom): Davis Turner/Getty Images; page 13 (top): Davis Turner/Getty Images; page 13 (bottom): Tami Chappell/News- Com; page 16: Parker Smith/Getty Images Interior design by Michelle Espinoza Printed in the United States of America 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 * 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Ashley Smith is contributing a portion of the royalties she earns from Unlikely Angel to The March 11 Angel Fund, in memory of the victims of the Fulton County Courthouse shootings. The fund will create a memorial for the vicitms and support charitable organizations working to reduce crime and redeem lives. You can contribute to the fund by sending a tax-deductible donation to: The March 11 Angel Fund c/o National Christian Foundation 1100 Johnson Ferry Road Suite 900 Atlanta, GA 30342 Donors may receive periodic reports on the distribution of funds, if requested. W I L L I A M M O R R O W A n I m p r i n t o f H a r p e r C o l l i n s P u b l i s h e r s 1hostage Friday, March 11, 2005 At 9:45 p.m. my cell phone rang. I looked down at my caller ID --- it was my step-dad calling from Augusta again. What could he want this time? 'What are you doing?' he asked. I was exhausted, almost too tired to answer. I held the phone against my ear with my shoulder so I could carry a load of trash out of my second-floor apartment down to my car. I had been moving for two days. My new place was a smaller, bottom-level apartment on the other side of the complex. I didn't have much left to do here --- just some vacuuming and painting to return the place to its original condition. But I wasn't doing any of that tonight. I needed sleep. I was driving to Dacula in the morning to see Paige. 'I'm moving the rest of my stuff,' I said, trying to get down the stairs. Just please let me get off this phone. 'You're out? There's a man on the loose and you're out? Haven't you been watching the news like I told you?' This was the second time my step-dad had called me about the guy on the news. The first time was late this morning when he woke me up calling. He kept talking about a man and shootings at the courthouse, and he told me to stay inside. I'd been up all night unpacking boxes, and I just didn't understand his concern. I mean, I lived in Duluth, maybe half an hour northeast of downtown Atlanta. 'Thanks, but I'm not too worried about it,' I had told him. I learned a little more about the story when I went to work later in the day. I'd just started a second job at Barnacle's, a restaurant maybe five minutes from my apartment complex. The news was playing on the TV screens when I got there, and I caught the basics: A man had killed some people at the Fulton County Courthouse and now he was on the run. My coworkers were talking about it a lot, but I didn't pay too much attention. Being from Augusta, I was used to hearing about violent crime in Atlanta. And I had a lot on my mind with the move anyway. 'Look,' I said to my step-dad now as I shut my car door and headed back up to the apartment, 'this guy's not going to come after me. I mean, he could be anywhere.' I thought back to the five police officers who had come into Barnacle's for dinner. I was training to work the door, and as the men were walking out, I heard someone ask them, 'Hey, have y'all caught that guy yet?' 'Oh, don't you worry about him,' one officer said. 'He's probably in Alabama by now.' I tried to reassure my step-dad: 'You know, an officer who came into the restaurant said the guy's probably in Alabama, so I'll be fine. I've just gotten off work, and I have a few more things to get out of here. Then I'm done. I'll be on my way to the other apartment in a few minutes. I promise.' 'Well, okay,' my step-dad said. 'Just get home and get inside and don't leave.' 'Okay. Fine.' I loaded the rest of the trash into my car and drove the half mile or so to the other side of the apartment complex. I was thinking about what the next day would look like. I would see Paige in the morning. My Aunt Kim, who had custody of her right now, had brought her the two and a half hours from Augusta, and they were staying with my Uncle David's family in Dacula, about thirty miles northeast of Atlanta toward Athens. We were all meeting up at Uncle David's church at ten o'clock for a kids' ministry Olympics day. Then I would work a day shift at Express in Gwinnett Place Mall and a night shift at Barnacle's. It would be a full day, and I felt completely shot right now. I knew I just had to get to bed. I couldn't let myself do any more unpacking tonight. Maybe one or two boxes, but that was it. Really, Ashley, you can't get sucked into this. I pulled up to my new apartment and parked right in front of the door. I didn't have far to carry my things, only ten or twelve steps up the walk. When I got inside, I pulled off my gray knit work shirt and black leather belt, which left me in a white tank top and a pair of baggy jeans. Then I turned on the TV in the living room. 'Okay,' I said, looking at the five or six boxes lined up in the middle of the floor. 'Just one or two.' While the news played in the background, I began unpacking the boxes and putting things where they belonged. The eight-by-ten photograph of Paige holding that red flower could go on top of my stereo speaker near the door. The two gold angel candleholders could sit on my picture table for now --- I was going to hang them on either side of that mirror propped up on the back of the sofa. Now and then as I worked I heard what the news anchors were saying: The man from the courthouse was still at large. He'd killed three people. There was something about a green Honda. I didn't hear much. Mainly, I was focused on getting my house the way I liked it. I knew exactly where I wanted things --- photographs, candles, lamps, books, knickknacks --- and I just kept going. At about eleven I stopped and smoked a couple of cigarettes. I only had one left in the pack now, but I purposely had not gone by the store after work to buy any more because I knew I was going to make it an early night.

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