ATLANTA – The only thing that helped Ashley Smith (search) get through an over-seven-hour ordeal where quadruple murder suspect Brian Nichols (search) held her hostage was her faith in God, Smith told FOX News on Monday.
"I believe that's the only person that helped me through that," she said in an interview with "FOX & Friends."
Smith said her ordeal began around 2 a.m. Saturday morning when Nichols — the man who authorities said grabbed a sheriff's deputy's gun at the Fulton County Courthouse (search) on Friday, starting a string of events that left four people dead — confronted her in the parking lot of her apartment when she returned from a store.
"He stuck a gun to my side and I started to scream and tried to kind of hit the ground and cover up but he kind of had me and pushed me in the door," Smith told FOX News.
Although she knew about the courthouse shootings, Smith said, "It wasn't until after he took his hat off that I knew it was him ... I just thought it was a random mugger or something." Over the course of the night, Nichols untied Smith, and some of the fear lessened as they talked. Nichols told Smith he felt like "he was already dead," but Smith urged him to consider the fact that he was still alive a "miracle."
"You're here in my apartment for some reason," she told him, saying he might be destined to be caught and to spread the word of God to fellow prisoners. She told him his escape from authorities had been a "miracle."
Smith said there did come a point where she didn't really think Nichols would kill her, particularly after he untied her.
"From that point on, the guns were never really important anymore so I didn't think he was going to kill me," she told FOX News. "The thought was always in my mind until I left the house of course, but I didn't think he was going to."
Smith gently talked to Nichols, the armed suspect in Atlanta's courthouse slayings, and the two discussed God, family, pancakes and the massive manhunt going on outside her apartment.
Smith, 33, later called 911 after she was freed, and police soon surrounded her suburban apartment complex. Nichols gave up peacefully, waving a white towel in surrender.
"I honestly think when I looked at him that he didn't want to do it anymore," Smith said at a news conference Sunday. "I believe God brought him to my door."
As for what she thinks of Nichols after spending time with him, Smith told FOX: "I have a lot of different emotions about him ... I know who the person in my apartment was but I also have to take into consideration what he did and how his personality kind of goes back and forth, so I really don't know."
Cops: Hostage Was 'Cool and Levelheaded'
Police said they were impressed by the way Smith handled herself.
"She acted very cool and levelheaded. We don't normally see that in our profession," said Gwinnett County Police Officer Darren Moloney (search). "It was an absolutely best-case scenario that happened, a complete opposite of what you expected to happen. We were prepared for the worst and got the best."
The crime spree began when Nichols allegedly overpowered a courthouse deputy escorting him to his rape trial Friday and took the deputy's gun, then killed the presiding judge and court reporter. He also is accused of killing a deputy who tried to stop him outside the courthouse and a federal agent during his flight from authorities.
He tied her up and told her to sit in the bathroom while he took a shower. "He said, 'I'm not going to hurt you if you just do what I say,"' she said. He told her: "I don't want to hurt you. I don't want to hurt anybody else."
Choking back tears Sunday, she said she told Nichols that her husband died four years ago and if he hurt her, her little girl wouldn't have a mother or father. Smith's attorney, Josh Archer, said her husband died in her arms after being stabbed.
The two talked about the Bible and she handed him photos of her family. When morning came, Nichols was "overwhelmed" when Smith made him pancakes with real butter, she said. He told her he "just wanted some normalness to his life," she said.
The two watched television news reports about the slayings and the manhunt. "I cannot believe that's me on there," Smith quoted Nichols as saying.
When Nichols finally let Smith go to see her 5-year-old daughter, he said he wanted to stay at the apartment for a few more days. She said she thought he knew she was going to call 911 after she left.
"I didn't want him to hurt anybody else. He felt safe around me, he felt comfortable around me," she told FOX News. She did call 911 later, however, and the police soon surrounded the apartment complex. "I knew that when I left, the police could bring him out, one way or the other."
"This was a textbook arrest … this just went down the best way it could go," Charles Walters, the police chief of Gwinnett City Police, who arrested Nichols, told FOX News. "We were able to produce enough force so there was no other way out for him."
Walters said Nichols didn't confess or say anything to his officers, however.
Newspaper Reports Surveillance Camera Recorded Attack
On Monday morning, the U.S. Attorney's Office dismissed the federal firearms charge brought on Saturday against Nichols. This allows Nichols to be returned to the custody of Fulton County, Ga., authorities from the custody of the United States Marshals Service, where he had been held since Saturday afternoon. A statement from the attorney's office said officials there will continue to talk with the Fulton County district attorney's office to determine what federal and state charges should be brought against Nichols, and when those charges should be filed.
The Fulton County District Attorney's Office hopes to formally charge Nichols with the new crimes within 30 days, spokesman Erik Friedly said Sunday. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard still would like to resolve Nichols' interrupted rape retrial.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday that a courthouse surveillance camera recorded Nichols' initial surprise attack on Deputy Cynthia Hall but that no one in the control center noticed the assault.
"It's not just horrible, it was preventable," Senior Superior Court Judge Philip Etheridge told the newspaper.
A video camera, which is supposed to be monitored by two guards in a command post, shows Nichols and the deputy arriving in the holding area between two courtrooms, according to a law enforcement official who saw the tape. The video shows Hall guiding Nichols, whose hands are still handcuffed behind his back, into one of two open cells.
Hall releases one cuff and turns Nichols around to unhook the remaining cuff. But the muscular, 33-year-old Nichols then lunges at Hall, knocking the petite, 51-year-old grandmother backward into another cell. Both disappear from camera view. Two to three minutes later, Nichols emerges from the cell, holding Hall's gun belt and police radio. He picks up her keys from the floor and locks her in the cell.
A few minutes later, he emerges in civilian clothes. He locks the door behind him and calmly walks out of the holding area, carrying the gun belt, according to the official who saw the tape.
Judge Etheridge said Hall should not have been alone with Nichols, a former college linebacker who had been found with two sharpened door hinges in his socks earlier in the week.
Hall remained in critical condition Sunday, Grady Memorial Hospital officials said. Killed were Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Brandau, Sgt. Hoyt Teasley and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent David Wilhelm.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.