March 20, 2005


Troubled Past May Have Prepared Hostage: Ashley Smith fell apart when her husband was killed. She'd begun to pick up the pieces when Brian Nichols allegedly invaded her life. (Ellen Barry and Jenny Jarvie, March 20, 2005, LA Times)

Ashley Smith's life took a sharp left turn when she hit adolescence.

She spent Friday nights with a group of friends so wild that her grandparents, devout evangelical Christians, prayed for her every Friday afternoon. She fell in love with a tough boy. She seemed drawn to trouble — and troubled people — by her sweet nature.

Last week, in a one-bedroom apartment north of Atlanta, Smith says she spent a strange, amazing night talking to Brian Gene Nichols, an accused rapist. Police said Nichols took her hostage after he overcame a guard and killed three people at the Fulton County Courthouse and then fatally shot a customs agent hours later. By 9 a.m., authorities said, she had convinced him to surrender, ending an intense search that had paralyzed the city.

Since then, the world has come calling for this 26-year-old waitress, a woman who struggled with alcohol addiction and voluntarily gave up custody of her daughter because she couldn't provide her a stable home. Television producers have fought over the rights to an exclusive interview, ghost writers have dropped off letters of introduction, and Hollywood producers have pitched feature treatments of Smith's ordeal. As for Smith, she has relaxed into the embrace of her family, who say they always knew she would find her way back.

"This has brought her back into the fold," said Larry Croft, 49, her former stepfather. "She's not lost. She has proved it to the world. This has put an exclamation mark on what her character is all about."

"Left turn" is appropriate, even if accidental on the authors' parts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 20, 2005 8:54 AM

Another truism, one supposes, if one defines "left" as "self-centeredness."

Posted by: ghostcat at March 20, 2005 4:47 PM