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Atlanta hostage stayed 'cool'

Associated Press
Published March 14, 2005


ATLANTA - The hostage who helped end the 26-hour manhunt for a man accused of killing a judge and three others had long talks with her captor during the 13 hours she was held in her own apartment, police said Sunday.

Police described the woman as white, in her 20s to 30s, and they said they were impressed by the way she handled herself.

"She acted very cool and levelheaded. We don't normally see that in our profession," said Gwinnett County Police Officer Darren Moloney.

Suspect Brian Nichols, 33, surrendered Saturday. Nichols allegedly overpowered a courthouse deputy escorting him to his rape trial Friday and took the deputy's gun, then killed a judge and court reporter. He also is accused of killing a deputy and a federal agent.

Police say Nichols drove a stolen vehicle to the woman's Gwinnett County apartment complex, which he may have picked at random, approached her as she was entering her apartment and introduced himself as a wanted man.

He apparently told her, "If you do what I say, I won't kill you," Georgia Bureau of Investigation director Vernon Keenan said.

The two had some "pretty in-depth conversations" before the woman was able to leave and make a 911 call from the complex's leasing office. Authorities are not sure whether Nichols let the woman go or if she escaped, Moloney said.

The 911 call was the tip authorities needed.

"The bottom line is that law enforcement had no idea where he was," said Gwinnett County Police Chief Charles Walters.

The woman was not injured, Moloney said.

While she was held hostage, she talked to Nichols about her young daughter, her late husband and God, authorities told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution . Atlanta police Chief Richard Pennington said he thought the woman appealed to Nichols on a spiritual level.

Nichols could appear in federal court as early as today to face a charge of possession of a firearm by a person under indictment, the charge authorities are using to keep Nichols in custody while they sort out charging in the slayings, said U.S. Attorney David Nahmias.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard still would like to resolve Nichols' interrupted rape retrial, Friedly said. Nichols faced a life sentence if convicted.

However, Nichols' defense attorney for the rape charge said continuing with that case would "seem to be a colossal waste of time and tax money."

"Obviously, the rape charge pales in comparison to everything else he is facing," defense attorney Barry Hazen told NBC's Today on Sunday.

The deputy who was overpowered at the courthouse remained in critical condition Sunday, Grady Memorial Hospital officials said. Although hospital officials initially reported she may have suffered a grazing bullet wound to her forehead, they now believe she was struck on the head, said spokeswoman Denise Simpson.

[Last modified March 14, 2005, 01:29:07]


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