Ashley Smith Robinson was held hostage in her Atlanta apartment March 2005 by a man named Brian Nichols. While being held hostage, both her and Brian’s lives were radically changed. She read parts of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren to Brian, and even gave up drugs for good during the 8-hour encounter. Ten years later, The Digital Breakdown sits down with Ashley to revisit the night, talk about her life today, and even hear about the upcoming movie regarding her story!
TDB: Nearly 10 years ago you were held captive in your apartment by Brian Nichols. Take us back to that day – how did the day start out?
ASHLEY: It pretty much started out with my stepdad calling me and my phone ringing. He told me there was a man that escaped the courthouse and had killed all these people and he was “out to get me”. My stepdad is like a typical father – I don’t think he knew for sure that anything would happen, but somebody was dangerous and able to kill his little girl. But it started like a normal day – I went to work and pretty much did everything I normally did.
TDB: Did you know anything about Bryan Nichols’ story?
ASHLEY: I knew a little bit about it. Of course I had turned on the TV to the national news where they were all looking for this man that had escaped. But to be really honest, I didn’t pay much attention to it at all. I had other things on my mind, and I took note but did not pay much attention to anything.
TDB: What made you leave the night of the event?
ASHLEY: I was a smoker at the time and ran out of cigarettes, so I left my house and went to the store. I was only gone for about 5 minutes – just long enough to go in, get some cigarettes, and go back home.
TDB: When you saw Brian in his car watching you, did you feel at all concerned about it?
ASHLEY: Well, when I left I did notice him pulling up, but I didn’t think twice about it until I got back and he was still sitting in the truck. Once again, I thought about it for a second, but there was a voice inside my head that was saying “That man wants nothing to do with you, just get inside your house.”
TDB: What happened in the time between you getting out of your car and getting into your apartment?
ASHLEY: When I got out of my car I heard him getting out of his car, and I creepily felt someone walking up behind me. I started walking a little faster to my door, and by the time I got there and unlocked it, I saw Brian Nichols behind me pointing a gun at me. I started to scream and he told me to shut up and that if I was quiet he wouldn’t hurt me.
TDB: You were dealing with some things in your life at this time that had you feeling hopeless, did you feel any hope when you were stuck in your apartment with this guy?
ASHLEY: You know, for a long time I didn’t, but this was a turning point in my life that was giving me a bit of hope that God was going to be on my side. I was struggling with a drug addiction at the time, and I actually still had some drugs in my house. He asked me for the drugs, and he also asked me to do them with him. I chose not to do the drugs with him, and when I chose not to do the drugs with him, I just felt like God was in control and maybe if I could make the decision not to do the drugs anymore, maybe God would help me. And that’s exactly what happened!
TDB: You were reading Purpose Driven Life during this time. I actually just finished the book, and it was great! Did the readings from this book affect your outlook on this situation?
ASHLEY: I think I began to apply a lot of the things I was reading in The Purpose Driven Life. I definitely was using it as a tool to let God speak to me and begin to guide me in the right direction in life. So yeah, I definitely tried to apply some of it and still when I think about it it’s easy to let things slide in life, but it’s good to have book or song or movie to remind you it’s easy just to get back in with it.
TDB: Why do you believe you got out of this captivity – not only with Brian, but with drugs and hopelessness – alive?
ASHLEY: I think God knew that I was ready to change my life because I didn’t hold anything back from him anymore. I think the world tells us that God expects us to be perfect and we’re supposed to be these beautiful, wonderful people but in actuality we can’t be anything without Him. So when I gave all control to Him and became serious about changing was when He began to change my life.
TDB: What has this experience taught you?
ASHLEY: That there is nothing that I can do to make God not love me. For me He reached down in the pits of hell to where I was and pulled me out of it. He showed me that He was not finished with me yet, and gave me a life I could never have imagined.
TDB: What is your life like these days?
ASHLEY: I am a mother of three, a wife, and a hospital worker. I live a pretty normal life!
TDB: When did you decide to write your book “Unlikely Angel”?
ASHLEY: I wrote the book pretty quickly after being held hostage – within a couple months. My family and I were praying and asking God what He wanted me to do with everything that was being given to me. So, I decided to write the book. A large part of it was to help me heal, but also I just wanted to help others see that there was nothing that they could do that God wouldn’t forgive them for.
TDB: What is the story behind the title of this book?
ASHLEY: On the front page of the Atlanta Journal Constitution after I was held hostage they headlined my story “An Angel Sent From God”. My life leading up to that point was anything but angelic, so it was just kind of a fitting title since people were calling me an angel and I was anything but.
TDB: Was it hard to relive the memories that came with this story when you wrote the book?
ASHLEY: It was hard in it’s own way. As I look back on it now, I wasn’t under any substances and I wasn’t doing any drugs anymore. It was really very healing for me and it was something that needed to be done so that I could move forward in my life. I think I stayed bogged down in drugs for so long because I kept covering up emotions and feelings I was needing to get out with drugs. So getting it all out on paper and sharing my story with others was very healing for me.
TDB: What are your hopes for those who hear your story?
ASHLEY: I honestly just want people to know that it’s never too late to turn their life around and that there is nothing that they can do that God won’t love them for. When I completely surrendered to God and gave Him every part of me, He just gave me this amazing life. If I would’ve continued to listen to the world and everyone who told me that God wouldn’t love me unless I was a certain type of way – perfect, or as close to it as I could possibly be – then I think I would probably be dead today. So, we just have to remember that God is the only perfect person that walked this Earth and that He’s going to carry us through no matter what. He’s going to carry us through everything we ask Him to.
TDB: How did the idea for your story to be put on screen come about?
ASHLEY: We were originally asked to do a movie ten years ago, and the thought was always there. We kept going down different avenues, and I pretty much just kept saying “In God’s timing and whenever He’s ready for it. Whatever way He’s ready for it – whether that is to be in a movie theater or on a television show, or whatever it may be, just let it be God’s will. So, that’s really all just a God thing.
TDB: Have you gotten to meet the actors and actresses behind this project?
ASHLEY: Yes I have. I got to spend quite a good bit of time with them and I’m really impressed by both of them, and who they are and what they represent. Even just what they did with the story, they did a fantastic job.
TDB: What is your favorite part about your story?
ASHLEY: I think that the favorite part of my story is that God never gave up on me, you know. When I gave up on myself, and I didn’t think that my life was worth anything anymore God showed me something different. He just humbled me and said “I love you in everything you are.” I don’t know that anyone had ever done that for me before.
TDB: Why do you believe people should go see this film or read your book?
ASHLEY: Because it is an unbelievable film, and you will sit on the edge of your seat wondering – even if you know the end of the story, you will still sit there just riveted by everything it has to offer. I sat there and I cried and I didn’t blink an eyelash and it was my story. I lived it! I’ve seen it four, five, maybe six times and I’m still sitting there stunned when I’m watching. You will not be let down if you go see it!