(SAINT PAUL, Minn.) — A Minnesota man has been charged with the murder of his wife 11 years after she was shot and killed in their home.
Nicholas James Firkus, 38, was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree intentional murder in the death of his wife, Heidi Firkus, on April 25, 2010. At the time, he told police that an intruder broke into their home, grabbed his shotgun and shot them both, according to an arrest warrant that was unsealed Thursday.
The Saint Paul Police Department has been investigating the homicide ever since. During a press briefing Thursday, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi credited the involvement of the FBI, a new homicide investigator on the case offering a “fresh set of eyes” and the enhancement of a 911 call from the morning of the murder in leading to an arrest.
“This is like putting together a giant puzzle, and sometimes it just takes a lot of time to bring in different pieces, and to look at that and to be able to have somebody new try to find the right piece,” Michael Krause, assistant special agent at the Minneapolis field office for the FBI, told reporters.
Last year, the FBI also brought in additional trained specialists to help with the investigation, Krause said.
The arrest warrant offers details of the 911 call made the morning of April 25, right before Heidi Firkus was killed, and outlines the couple’s apparent financial struggles at the time of her death.
At 6:31 a.m. that day, Heidi Firkus called 911 from her cell phone to report that someone was trying to break into her house in Saint Paul, according to the warrant.
“Thirty-eight seconds into the call, as Heidi was giving dispatch her address, a noise similar to a gunshot was heard, Heidi stopped speaking, and the call went dead,” the warrant stated. “Before the gunshot, there is no significant background noise on the call, nor does Heidi say anything that would suggest that an intruder had actually entered the home.”
The 911 dispatcher tried calling back twice but the calls went to voicemail, and about a minute later Nicholas Firkus called 911 from his wife’s phone, according to the warrant.
“He was highly emotional,” the warrant stated. “He said that someone had broken into their home and that he and Heidi had been shot while trying to run out the back to the garage. Near the end of the almost-seven-minute call, police can be heard entering the house.”
Responding police found both with gunshot wounds. Heidi Firkus was pronounced dead at the scene, and Nicholas Firkus was taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound to his upper left thigh, according to the warrant.
The autopsy revealed Heidi Firkus was shot once in the back with a shotgun, according to the warrant.
During an interview at the police station after he was released from the hospital, Nicholas Firkus reportedly said their house had been foreclosed upon and they were planning to move out later that day, and that they hadn’t told any family or friends yet, according to the warrant.
Their house was sold at a sheriff’s auction 10 months earlier, on June 4, 2009, though after reviewing the Firkus’ cell phones and email accounts and interviewing friends, family, co-workers and the law firm handling the eviction, prosecutors said they don’t believe Heidi Firkus knew about the foreclosure or an imminent lockout.
“This is no sign that there had been any packing done and there was no evidence of any housing arrangements where they were going to stay,” Ramsey County Assistant County Attorney Elizabeth Lamin said during Thursday’s briefing. “We believe we have sufficient evidence to not only charge Nicholas Firkus, that he planned and murdered Heidi Firkus on April 25, 2010, beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The warrant further alleges that the shooting couldn’t have happened as described by Nicholas Firkus based on the trajectory of the shot.
“Furthermore, no struggle is heard in Heidi’s 911 call, nor does Heidi say anything that suggests that an intruder had successfully gained entry into the house. Yet, one can hear police arrive in the background of Nicholas Firkus’ 911 call,” the warrant stated.
Nicholas Firkus’ defense attorney, Joseph Friedberg, declined to comment on the case when contacted by ABC News.
During Nicholas Firkus’ first court appearance Thursday, Friedberg reportedly said it was “still a completely circumstantial case,” according to the Pioneer Press.
“It was a circumstantial case where the state felt they just had insufficient evidence to proceed 11 years ago,” Friedberg reportedly told the judge, adding that the prosecutors “don’t have anything new” now.
On Thursday, Nicholas Firkus’ bail was set at $3 million, or $1 million on the condition that he surrender his passport and not leave Minnesota.
He is next scheduled to appear virtually at an omnibus hearing on July 1 at 1:30 p.m. He faces a maximum of 40 years in prison if convicted.
In a statement obtained by ABC News Minneapolis affiliate KSTP, the family of Heidi Firkus said they’re “extremely grateful for all those who have worked so hard and long to get the case to this point. And also for everyone who has prayed and stood beside us all these years.”
“We are hopeful that these charges will finally bring out the truth and result in justice for Heidi,” the statement said. “Even though we know we can’t have her back, we believe Heidi would want us to have the truth.”
Saint Paul Police Department homicide investigator Sgt. Nichole Sipes, who took over the cold case 18 months ago, said she was motivated by the family’s loss.
“I think the fact that we have a victim that there has never been any justice for, and a family that was left behind to wonder what happened and why they have this lost, and that’s what spoke to me about this case,” she said during Thursday’s briefing.
Saint Paul Police Department Homicide Unit Commander Bryant Gaden credited Sipes with moving the case forward.
“She happened to take a look at this case, and some things stuck out to her, she turned over some stones and some pebbles and decided to stay with it,” Gaden said Thursday. “So that’s why we’re here today, because of her tenacity and decision-making and excellent investigative intelligence.”
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.