A Minnesota man found guilty of killing his wife 13 years ago was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Thursday.
Nicholas James Firkus, 27, was arrested in 2021, more than a decade after he told authorities that an intruder broke into their St. Paul home and killed his wife.
Firkus Claimed a Black Male Fatally Shot His Wife and Injured Him During a Struggle
In the early morning of April 25, 2010, 911 dispatchers received a frantic call from Nicholas' wife, Heidi Firkus. "Someone's trying to break into my home," the 25-year-old told the dispatcher. The call ended abruptly with a loud noise. Just 65 seconds later, another call came in – this time from Nicholas.
Nicholas claimed, the intruder, whom he described as a black male in his 30s wearing a hoodie, grabbed a shotgun and shot his wife in the back. He said he was shot in the leg during a struggle with the intruder.
Nicholas had a gunshot wound to his thigh. Heidi had been shot in the upper back and was unresponsive. She died at the scene. The police released the sketch through the media to see if any tips would come in. Years later a woman identified Michael Pye to police as a potential match but was subsequently cleared of having any involvement in Heidi's death.
There was no evidence suggested there had been a struggle at the crime scene of Heidi's death, including no unidentified DNA on the gun. The Firkus house was clean and tidy, and the entryway table beside the front door was undisturbed. Extensive neighborhood canvassing and a K9 search showed no sign of an intruder.
Firkus and Heidi's Home was Foreclosed On
A compelling financial motive behind the slaying was revealed thereafter, investigators said. Investigators found that the couple's home had been foreclosed on nearly a year before the murder, but Heidi didn't know about it and Nicholas had been trying to delay the eviction.
Nicholas, the complaint said, had done "absolutely no packing" and kept Heidi completely in the dark about the fact that they were about to be evicted on April 26, 2010, which was one day after the slaying. Ramsey County prosecutors argued that Nick Firkus hid details of their financial troubles from his wife, and murdered her due to the shame of their impending eviction.
Firkus Became a Suspect After Second Wife Grew Suspicious
Nicholas met Rachel Firkus (née Watson) just a matter of months after Heidi Firkus was shot dead. The two got married in August 2012 and went on to have three kids. According to Rachel, her suspicions about her husband's involvement in Heidi's death were raised when she found a notice that they might lose their home to foreclosure, due to unpaid property taxes.
Nicholas and Rachel had an arrangement where they would pay the mortgage amount to Nicholas' parents and he would pay the property taxes directly to the county. Rachel Firkus found a notice in their home that stated that they were delinquent on their property taxes, and that their house was in danger of being foreclosed on.
"I didn't know that this was happening and I'm living with this person. I have children with this person, and the last time he had problems with finances, a lot of things went wrong," she reportedly told ABC.
The marriage ended in 2018. Three years later, in May 2021, Nicholas was formally accused for the first time of murder (second degree) in a case authorities described as a "decade old mystery."