I remember watching the ads on TV for the movie “Captive,” but had no idea how much God was involved in the Hollywood thriller which hit the theaters September 18, 2015.
The movie is based on an incident that took place in Atlanta, Georgia over ten years ago involving murderer Brian Nichols, 33, and his kidnapping of a young widow, Ashley Smith.
On March 11 2005, Nichols was on trial for rape in an Atlanta courthouse. During his trial, Nichols overpowered Fulton County Sheriff’s deputy Cynthia Hall, then using her gun was able to escape captivity.
In the process, he shot and murdered four people — Judge Rowland Barnes, Sheriff deputy Hoyt Teasley, immigration officer David Wilhelm and court reporter Julie Ann Brandau.
In an interview with Dan Woods of Assist News, Ashley told her incredible story of God’s intervention.
Ashley grew up in a Christian home, but at the age of 18 made some bad decisions. She started getting into drugs and ended up marrying a man who she watched get stabbed to death because of drugs.
Angry and scared Ashley continued her downward spiral eventually taking up meth in 2001. She was dating a drug dealer, another bad choice, so the drugs were free.
But as the meth slowly took control of her life, Ashley realized she needed to break free and turned back to God for help.
“I was in the middle of a spiritual warfare, trying to go back and forth between God and drugs or God and the world and I was failing miserably.”
One of the books she had purchased to help her through this struggle was The Purpose Driven Life written by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church based in California. As its name suggests, the Bible-based book shows that God has a purpose for every person.
The courthouse that Nichols escaped from was 45 minutes from Ashley’s new apartment and though she received a phone call from her step-brother warning of the escape, she thought nothing more about it.
It was 2 am and after unpacking from her move, Ashley decided to step out to buy some cigarettes. When she returned to her apartment she noticed a man who had pulled into the parking lot as she was leaving still sitting in a truck.
As Ashley left her vehicle the man pulled out a gun and forced Ashley to take him to her apartment. It was then Ashley realized the man holding her captive was the one her step-brother had warned her about.
Because of her drug addiction, Ashley had lost her daughter, Paige, who was now living with her aunt. Ashley’s home was full of photos of her daughter. Scared, Ashley talked incessantly about Paige.
As they sat in the apartment, Nichols started watching TV channels broadcasting the murders at the courthouse. As she saw what had happened, Ashley was not certain she would live the night.
When Nichols asked Ashley if she had any marijuana, she offered him the only drug she had — meth.
As Nichols took the meth, Jesus began to speak to Ashley:
“Ashley, do you want a new life, because if you do, then you don’t do those drugs, but if you want continue living the that life that you have been doing, go ahead and do those drugs and I’m just going to take you home.”
When Nichols offered her some meth, Ashley said no adding those drugs had ruined her life and she didn’t want to use them anymore.
Despite her refusal, Nichols left one line of meth on the table if she changed her mind. The line was there the night tempting Ashley.
It was during this period that Ashley asked Nichols if she could read her book, The Purpose Driven Life, sitting on her book shelf.
Nichols said it was fine, but the strangely asked her to read a chapter out loud. After she did that, the book seemed to impact Nichols. He asked what the purpose for his life was.
“Well you have to turn yourself in and you have to pay for what you did. People in prison need Jesus too, so maybe that is what you are supposed to do with the rest of your life.”
Nichols said her purpose was to tell others how God set her free from drugs.
Throughout the night, Ashley had been telling Nichols that she was supposed to meet her daughter in the morning. And though Nichols said no initially, by morning he had softened to the idea and in fact he was the one who brought it up asking Ashley when she needed to pick up her daughter.
Nichols let Ashley leave around 9 am.
Ashley believes that Nichols knew she would call the police. A short time later a swat team arrested Nichols without incident.
Today, Ashley has remarried and now has three children. She goes to church, attends a weekly Bible study and is sharing her experience of how God freed her from drugs and a mass murderer. She has also written a book about her ordeal, Unlikely Angel, on which ‘Captive’ is based.
One statement Ashley made in her interview with Dan Wooding particularly caught my attention:
Ashley told him:
“It’s never too late to turn your life around.”
As for Nichols, in December 2008 he was sentenced to several consecutive life sentences and will be in jail the rest of his life.