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Nick Firkus claimed he accidentally killed his wife Heidi during a break-in. His story ‘never felt right’

 (Heidi Firkus obituary/ST Paul PD)
(Heidi Firkus obituary/ST Paul PD)

The 911 call that came from Heidi and Nick Firkus’ home on the morning of 25 April 2010 had all the elements of a horror film.

A frantic Heidi, 25, struggled to tell the dispatcher that someone had broken into her Saint Paul, Minnesota, home and that her husband was fighting off the intruder. The shot that took Heidi’s life came soon after and was recorded on that 911 call.

Sixty-five seconds later, Nick Firkus used his wife’s phone to tell the dispatcher what had just happened: “Please, someone just broke into my house and shot me and my wife.”

Nick sustained a minor grazing shot wound to his leg and went on to recount with detail to investigators what he claimed to be a traumatic attack. Heidi’s homicide would remain unsolved for nearly a decade before an investigator saw through the cracks of what turned out to be an elaborate and sinister murder plot by Firkus, that had been motivated by financial trouble in their marriage.

“It never felt right,” Saint Paul Police Department Sgt Nichole Sipes told CBS 48 Hours in an interview revisiting the case that shocked the nation in 2010 and made headlines again in 2021 with Firkus’ arrest. “The story never made sense to me.”

Heidi’s loved ones finally got a sliver of closure in February — 13 years after she was murdered in the foyer of her kitchen — when Firkus was convicted on two counts of murder.

Firkus, who has maintained his innocence, was sentenced to life in prison and is now appealing his conviction.

Here’s everything we know about the case:

A deadly ‘break-in’

After being transported to the hospital to treat a grazing gunshot wound to his leg, Firkus told detectives that he had heard an intruder fiddling with the doorknob at around 6.30am on 25 April 2010.

He said he retrieved a gun from his closet and loaded it with two shell cases.

According to Sgt Sipes, Firkus had Heidi walk in front of him as they descended to the first floor, where the supposed intruder was. When he confronted the man, Firkus said, a fight ensued for the weapon.

“So my finger slipped onto the trigger … she was running away, so I definitely hit her in the back,” Firkus told police.

The weapon recovered from the Firkus home (CBS/St Paul PD)
The weapon recovered from the Firkus home (CBS/St Paul PD)

Firkus was questioned on why the couple had decided to leave the safety of their bedroom to go confront a potentially dangerous assailant, but he said that he and Heidi were just trying to escape through the backdoor of the home.

“Why you would have the unarmed person go first is beyond me,” Sgt Snipes told 48 Hours. “To me, there were two people in that house when Heidi was killed; Nick and Heidi.”

A man who was pet-sitting at the house next to the Firkus home told authorities that he had heard an argument before somebody pulled the trigger.

Nobody saw the intruder leaving the scene, but Firkus went on to provide a sketch of the suspect to police that was released to the public.

In 2015, law enforcement received a tip about a man who resembled the suspect in the sketch. However, he had been in prison at the time of Heidi’s homicide and the case went cold for nearly 10 years.

Firkus provided a sketch of the supposed attacker (CBS/Sr Paul PD)
Firkus provided a sketch of the supposed attacker (CBS/Sr Paul PD)

Financial motives emerge

During questioning by police in the immediate aftermath of the murder, Firkus revealed that he and Heidi had been behind in the payments for their home. He also abruptly told a detective that they had received a notice to evict within 24 hours of the day Heidi was killed.

“There was no communication between the two of them to indicate that she had any idea of the depth of their financial issues,” Sgt Sipes told 48 Hours, suggesting that Heidi was unaware of the impending eviction. “I believe he was concerned with the shame of what he had done and how it would look.”

While serving a search warrant at the Firkus’ home, investigators noticed that there were no signs of a break-in or struggle.

It also appeared that the couple had not been packing up to prepare for the eviction. Police later uncovered that Firkus had reportedly deceitfully told Heidi they were victims of identity theft and had lost around $180,000 to $200,000.

Prosecutors say Heidi was not aware of the impending eviction (Heidi Firkus/ Obituary)
Prosecutors say Heidi was not aware of the impending eviction (Heidi Firkus/ Obituary)

Authorities also interviewed Firkus’ second wife Rachel Firkus, whom he married in 2012.

By the time Rachel spoke with investigators, she had already divorced Firkus over his mounting financial issues. Rachel recorded her conversation confronting Firkus about his lies before their divorce in 2019.

“He was definitely repeating the same things he did with Heidi with me,” Rachel told 48 Hours. “I saw a letter that we had not paid our property taxes and if we didn’t pay them, we were going to get evicted by 2020.”

Firkus is arrested 11 years after Heidi’s death 

Firkus was charged with second-degree murder on 19 May 1021 after prosecutors decided to pursue a case against him.

He was indicted on first- and second-degree murder charges by a grand jury and was free on bail for two years until he returned to prison in January, a month ahead of his trial. However, Firkus’ ex-wife’s testimony about his financial deceit was not admitted in court.

Prosecutors argued that Firkus led a double life and had schemed his wife’s murder to distract from the poor financial decisions he had taken. In April, Firkus was convicted on both charges following an 11-day trial.

“He would have been exposed as a complete failure, a liar … to his friends and community. And instead, he’s a victim,” prosecutor Elizabeth Lamin told 48 Hours. “He walks away from this … supported by his friends, supported by his family. “

Firkus has been sentenced to life over his wife’s murder (CBS/St Paul PD)
Firkus has been sentenced to life over his wife’s murder (CBS/St Paul PD)

However, friends of Firkus told the programme that it was hard to wrap their heads around the theory that the prosecution had presented, and described Firkus as a “loving” husband.

“You have to believe that a man with no history of violence killed the woman he loved, more than anything in life, for no reason. That’s what you have to believe ... we can’t get there,” Emily Erickson, a friend of the convicted murderer, said.

Firkus has maintained his innocence and is currently appealing his conviction, CBS reports. His attorneys have argued that there was evidence of a break-in and that Firkus didn’t have time to shoot Heidi, shoot himself and stage the scene during the 65-second timeframe.