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Ex-hostage in Atlanta shootings strikes book deal

In March, Ashley Smith recounted how Brian Nichols took her hostage at her apartment for seven hours.
Atlanta (Georgia)

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Ashley Smith, who was held hostage after the Atlanta courthouse killings in March, has signed a book deal with HarperCollins Publishers, the company said Wednesday.

The book will be titled "Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero" and is to be published jointly by HarperCollins subsidiaries William Morrow and Zondervan, a leading Christian communications company. It should be out in the fall, the publisher said.

Terms of Smith's publishing agreement were not immediately disclosed.

Smith has received more than $72,000 in reward money for her role in leading authorities to Brian Nichols, who is accused of killing three people at a downtown Atlanta courthouse and later killing a federal agent who was working at his home.

In May, Nichols pleaded not guilty to multiple charges related to the case. ( Full story)

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

Smith said Nichols took her hostage outside her apartment in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth and held her for seven hours.

Nichols agreed to release her after she spoke to him about her 5-year-old daughter, God and hope, Smith said.

At one point, she said, she read Nichols a portion of the popular inspirational book "The Purpose-Driven Life."

Nichols surrendered to police without incident, and authorities credited Smith with defusing what could have been a deadly standoff.

She later told reporters that she asked Nichols why he chose her as his hostage. "He said he thought I was an angel sent from God," she said. (Full story)

On March 11, Nichols -- who was jailed pending trial on a rape charge -- overpowered a female sheriff's deputy in a holding area, authorities said.

He grabbed keys from the deputy and took a gun from a lockbox, authorities said. He then walked across a bridge from the new courthouse building to the old one where Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes' courtroom was located on the eighth floor, authorities said.

Nichols briefly took several people hostage, including another deputy who was disarmed by the suspect, authorities said, and went into the courtroom and killed Barnes, who had been presiding over his rape trial. Authorities said he also shot and killed court reporter Julie Ann Brandau.

Sgt. Hoyt Teasley of the Fulton County Sheriff's Department was killed on the street outside the courthouse as Nichols escaped, authorities said.

Authorities said Nichols carjacked several vehicles in downtown Atlanta while police searched for him. He apparently hopped a MARTA transit train to the city's upscale Buckhead neighborhood. He found U.S. customs agent David Wilhelm working alone at his home, which was under construction, authorities said.

Nichols shot and killed Wilhelm and took his vehicle, eventually making his way to Smith's apartment, where he took her hostage, authorities said.

Some proceeds from book sales will go to a memorial fund to honor the shooting victims, according to a statement by the publisher.

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