Ashley Smith, known worldwide as the single mother who persuaded Brian Nichols, Atlanta’s courtroom killer, to surrender to police, will be the featured speaker at a Celebrate Recovery event on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. The free event will be held at Eastern Heights Baptist Church on Highway 80 East and limited seating is available on a first-come basis, beginning at 6:30 when doors open. No nursery is provided.
Smith is the author of “Unlikely Angel,” which recounts her harrowing experience of being held prisoner in her own apartment by a gun-wielding Brian Nichols and her eventual miraculous freedom and recovery. The movie, “Captive,” is based on her experience and opened in theaters in mid-September.
Ashley Smith, a widow with a 5-year-old daughter, had no idea the life-changing turn of events that would take place on the night of March 11, 2005, when she returned to her apartment after a late-night errand.
Brian Nichols, who was on trial for rape, wrestled a gun from a guard and eventually shot and killed four people, a judge, a court reporter, a sheriff’s deputy, and an immigration agent and made his escape by carjacking several cars.
It was from one of those cars that Nichols spotted Smith and then forced her to let him in her apartment by holding a gun to her head. Once inside, he tied her hands and feet.
“The thought never left my head that I was going to die,” said Smith. “There was a point, though, where I knew that I wasn’t in control, and I knew God was. I wasn’t in control and Brian Nichols wasn’t in control. God was.”
Smith even talked to Nichols about God and her faith during the ordeal. Smith was raised in a Christian home, and her grandfather was a non-denominational preacher.
“I always knew right from wrong,” said Smith. “I accepted Jesus at seven. But when I was 18 or 19, I began to chase the ways of the world. I rebelled a little. I began to drift away.”
Smith said she and her first husband used drugs and alcohol recreationally, but when she watched her husband’s murder, she fell into a downward spiral.
“He died in my arms,” Smith said. “And drugs became a coping mechanism instead of ‘just fun.’”
Her addiction became such a problem that she eventually lost custody of her daughter.
But when Nichols asked Smith if she had any drugs in the apartment and then asked her if she wanted to use those drugs with him, she adamantly refused.
“And I never did drugs again after that,” Smith stated.
Smith will tell the story of her freedom from Nichols – and how she convinced him to surrender to authorities – and her freedom from addiction at the Celebrate Recovery event, like she’s told the story to countless groups in the last several years.
“Everyone called me a hero. When it was first over, I really just wanted to find out what God wanted me to do with my life. Of all the people God could have chosen, I had to figure out why he wanted me, a lonely widow drug-addict mom, to be a hero. I was lost, trying to find my way. I wasn’t a positive person in society.
“And then I realized that was just it. I wouldn’t be scared to tell the world that He changed me. Ultimately, I wrote Unlikely Angel, and it was very healing for me.
“The movie is very true to everything that happened. It’s a true picture of God’s grace. He reached down and pulled me up from my destruction. It was as if He said, ‘You might be done with you, but I’m not done with you.’
“I still mess up, but I lean on God and He carries me through life. He’s called me to bring glory to Himself and for that I am grateful. I feel very strongly that He saved me for that reason.”
The public is invited to hear Smith’s life-changing story of miraculous freedom at the Celebrate Recovery event on Nov. 7 at Eastern Heights Baptist Church.