ATLANTA — The woman who led authorities to the arrest of suspected courthouse shooter Brian Nichols was lauded at a ceremony Thursday and received a fistful of reward checks from Gov. Sonny Perdue and law enforcement groups.
Ashley Smith, a 26-year-old widowed mother of one, was held hostage for seven hours by Nichols at her suburban Atlanta home March 12 before placing the 911 call that led to his arrest.
Thomas Smith, head of the state sheriffs association, lauded her for "your courage, your strength and your perseverance."
Ashley Smith has said she spoke with Nichols for hours about her daughter, her husband's death four years ago from a stabbing wound and her faith in God. She said she told Nichols that he might be destined to be caught so he could spread the word of God to fellow prisoners.
"My life is testimony that God can use us even in the midst of tragedy and miracles do happen," she said at the ceremony at the state Capitol.
In all, she received $25,000 from the U.S. Marshals Office, $20,000 from the FBI, $10,000 from Perdue's office, $5,000 from the Georgia Sheriffs' Association, $5,000 from the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and $5,000 from the city of Atlanta. Most of the checks were presented Thursday.
"She's just stacking up the checks," Perdue quipped as the agencies took turns.
The amount was $7,500 more than what was publicly offered for information leading Nichols' arrest.
Nichols is accused of assaulting courthouse deputy Cynthia Hall on March 11, taking her gun from a lockbox and fatally shooting Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and his court reporter, Julie Brandau, on the day Barnes was to resume Nichols' rape trial.
Nichols also is accused of killing Sheriff's Sgt. Hoyt Teasley outside the courthouse and federal agent David Wilhelm during his attempt to elude authorities. He surrendered following a 26-hour manhunt after he let Smith go and she summoned authorities.
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