Jurors deliberated for four hours before finding Nicholas Firkus guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree intentional murder on Friday for the killing of his wife Heidi Firkus at the couple’s St. Paul home in 2010.
Gasps were heard in the crowded courtroom when Ramsey County District Judge Leonardo Castro read the jury’s first verdict. Firkus dropped his head, slumped over and put his hands on his knees.
After the first-degree murder verdict, the 39-year-old leaned onto the courtroom counsel with his elbows and crossed his hands. He gasped for air and rubbed his eyes. Some in the gallery sobbed.
A deputy led Firkus away, out of the courtroom and into lockup. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 13.
Prosecutors Rachel Kraker and Elizabeth Lamin followed Heidi Firkus’ parents John and Linda Erickson and other family members out of the eighth-floor courtroom. Once in an elevator, the four of them embraced and began to sob.
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Firkus’ attorneys, Robert Richman and Joe Friedberg, also hustled out of the courtroom for an elevator. Before the doors closed, they both declined to comment.
Firkus told police after the murder and his defense argued during his trial that on April 25 he struggled with an intruder, the gun went off and his 25-year-old wife was fatally shot in the back inside their home on Minnehaha Avenue near Fairview Avenue. Nicholas Firkus said he was then shot in his thigh and groin, and the intruder fled.
Firkus, of Mounds View, was charged with second-degree murder in May 2021. St. Paul police investigators had refused to close the case and in recent years had worked in conjunction with the FBI and Ramsey County prosecutors. A grand jury indicted him on the murder charge and of first-degree premeditated murder in late 2021.
The murder happened one day before the couple was supposed to be evicted from their house after a foreclosure.
The prosecution presented a case during the 11-day trial that Firkus shot his wife because he had kept news of their foreclosure and impending eviction from her and that he was “desperate, ashamed and had run out of time.”
Firkus did not testify.
After the guilty verdicts, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement that “we are very grateful to the St. Paul Police Department and the FBI for their diligent investigative work.”
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Choi acknowledged the prosecutors, victim advocates, paralegals and other support staff “who worked so tirelessly in their efforts to seek justice for Heidi. While nothing will bring Heidi back to her family and friends, we do hope this verdict provides them with some measure of closure.”
In the state’s closing arguments Friday morning, Kraker told jurors that Firkus shot his wife because he had kept news of their foreclosure and impending eviction from her and that he was “running out of time” because they were going to be “forcibly evicted” the next day.
Kraker said Firkus “refused to accept the fact that he was going to be exposed as a fraud” and that led him “to do the unthinkable. He took Heidi’s life and saved his reputation.”
In the defense’s closing arguments, Richman said that “all of this psychobabble that killing his wife would somehow save his reputation … makes no sense.”
Richman highlighted how one of Heidi’s close friends testified that she viewed the Firkuses as a couple who loved each other, and how a mutual friend said he learned from Nicholas “how to act” in his own relationship with his wife.
“You don’t kill the love of your life to spare yourself from embarrassment,” Richman said.
In the final moments of Heidi Firkus’ life, there was no “fictitious stranger” who broke into the couple’s Hamline-Midway home shortly after 6:30 a.m. and shot her, Kraker told jurors.
“It was the stranger she married,” she said.
Kraker told jurors the direct evidence in the case is Nicholas Firkus telling an investigator that he held his shotgun and “his finger was on the trigger and that he thinks he pulled it and that it went into Heidi’s body.”
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Kraker said the jurors should consider that two of the couple’s closest friends took the stand and said they “had no idea” the Firkuses had to move. The two couples hung out two days before the murder.
“The state does not have to prove motive in this case, but motive helps understand the question why?” Kraker said.
But Richman said Heidi Firkus was well aware of their situation — they had been getting letters about their mortgages for nearly two years and there had been notices posted on their front door about eviction. There were dozens of foreclosure documents in their shared files, Richman said. He also said evidence would show Heidi was using her phone to search for apartments for them the night before she died.
“For 13 years, police have been trying to prove that Nick killed his wife,” he said. “What they brought is speculation, conjecture and presumptions.”
Kraker reminded jurors of this week’s testimony from a locksmith, who has 35 years of experience in the field and examined evidence in the Firkus case for the prosecution. He discussed being called to numerous homes after burglaries and seeing doors and door frames destroyed. The Firkuses’ front door, where Nick said the intruder entered, was not broken.
Toward the end of Kraker’s closing, she played a part of Heidi’s 911 call. “Someone’s trying to break into my house,” she told the 911 operator, then gave her address.
Kraker started the timer on her phone and began to reenact what she said Nicholas Firkus did in the 65 seconds that ticked between his wife’s 911 call and the one he made reporting the murder.
“Do not punish Heidi Firkus because justice took so long, too long,” Kraker said.
While leaving the courthouse following the convictions, friends of Heidi Firkus said justice has been served.
“It finally has come,” said childhood friend Marnie Schafer, who showed off a tattoo on her arm of Firkus’ date of birth. “We can celebrate Heidi, her memory.”
Laura Hainlen, a friend of Heidi Firkus’ parents, said Heidi “was lovely, her heart. She was a lovely person.”
Firkus graduated from Roseville Area High School in 2003 and went to the University of Northwestern in Roseville. She met Nicholas at Calvary Church in Roseville, which Heidi attended regularly with her family while growing up. They served as church youth group leaders and were married at the church in 2005.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Marcus Sarazin, who was one of Heidi Firkus’ high school youth leaders at Calvary, said following the verdicts.
Sarazin and his wife, Katina, attended the trial from beginning to end.
“We wanted truth to be exposed either way,” Marcus Sarazin said. “We wanted some closure and some answers on what really happened. So I think the jury got it right.”
“It breaks our hearts,” Katina Sarazin said. “It breaks our hearts for Heidi’s family and for Nick’s family, but there’s finally justice.”