Redemption at Gunpoint

The Ashley Smith hostage crisis—ten years later
Redemption at Gunpoint

When Ashley Smith left her apartment to get cigarettes at 2 A.M. on March 11, 2005, she was thinking about two things: organizing her new apartment and visiting her daughter the next morning—a daughter she’d lost custody of after years of heavy drug use and whose father had been stabbed to death.

As she walked back to her apartment that night, Brian Nichols, a man on trial for rape, went on a killing spree after his escape from the Fulton County Courthouse. He followed Ashley to her door, put a gun in her face, and forced her into her apartment.

For the next seven and a half hours, Smith and Nichols sat and talked. At 9:30 A.M., Nichols let Smith walk out of her front door and drive away—then he surrendered to the police.

TCW connected with Ashley to find out how that night changed the course of her life.

What was your life like before Brian Nichols held you hostage?

I was raised in a Christian home. I’d accepted Christ when I was seven, and I lived out my faith for much of my adolescent life. But as I became a teenager, I got into drugs and all the negative things that the world had to offer. As I entered my twenties, I suffered several tragedies: My husband was stabbed to death in front of me, I was so far into drugs that I lost custody of my daughter, I’d been in a serious car accident as a result of drug-related psychosis, and I’d been checked into a mental institution. You name it, I’d been there.

At that point, I was trying to put my life back together. I was going to school and working two jobs, but I was struggling with drug use, and I still couldn’t have custody of my daughter. I’d gone to rehab, but I’d fallen off the wagon.

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Ashley Grace Emmert

Ashley Grace Emmert is a writer, editor, and TCW regular contributor who lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her sweet Southern husband and their small scrappy dog. Find her at or on Twitter at @ashgemmert.

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