For over a decade, investigators worked to piece together the 2010 murder ofwho, according to her husband Nick Firkus, was shot and killed in a burglary at the couple's Saint Paul, Minnesota, home. Investigators, however, believe the real killer was someone who knew Heidi.
A shooting at the front door
On the morning of April 25, 2010, 25-year-oldto tell them that someone was breaking into the home she shared with her husband Nick. During Heidi's call, she was heard screaming out after a loud noise prosecutors believe was the shotgun blast that killed her. 65 seconds later, Nick dialed 911 from Heidi's phone, and told the dispatcher he and his wife were shot by an intruder.
Dead at the scene
When first responders arrived on the scene, Heidi was pronounced dead. Nick Firkus was rushed to the hospital where he was treated for a gunshot wound to his leg.
Investigators cordoned off the scene and spoke to neighbors. No one saw an intruder fleeing from the Firkus house that morning. Brendan O'Connor, who was house sitting kittens next door, told police he heard a muffled argument, then gunshots and a voice yell out, "you shot her, you shot me, please, please, no."
Nick Firkus' account
A few hours after Nick was treated at the hospital, he met with investigators at the police station to give his account of what happened. He described hearing someone fiddling with the front doorknob, grabbing his gun, waking Heidi up, rushing her down the stairs, and then having a confrontation with the intruder who gained access into the home.
According to Nick, he and the intruder struggled with the gun. "So my finger slipped onto the trigger … she was running away, so I definitely hit her in the back," Nick told investigators. Shortly after that, he said he was shot and the intruder escaped.
Financial troubles revealed
Nick also revealed to investigators that he and Heidi were behind on their bills and lost their home. They were expected to vacate their house in 24 hours.
A suspect sketch
As the weeks went by, Nick provided a sketch of the suspect to investigators. They released it to the public but it did not generate any leads.
A new life
Investigators continued to work the case and Nick eventually started a new relationship. Two years after Heidi's death, he married Rachel Sanchez.
A tip comes in
Five years after Heidi's death, police got a break in the case. A tipster called in saying they recognized the person in the sketch. But, according to investigators, there was a problem. "He was already in prison on the date of Heidi's death," Sgt. Nichole Sipes told "48 Hours."
A new set of eyes
In 2019, Sgt. Nichole Sipes was leading Heidi's case. She, along with the help of the FBI, examined the case file. Sipes says she discovered something odd about Nick and Heidi's financial situation.
"There was no communication between the two of them to indicate that she had any idea of the depth of their financial issues," Sipes said. The investigator believes Heidi was not aware of the foreclosure.
Nick Firkus' second wife speaks out
Investigator Sipes contacted Rachel Firkus, who was now divorced from Nick. Rachel told her she left Nick because she discovered he was not paying the bills. A similarity, she says, that occurred in his relationship with Heidi. "He was definitely repeating the same things he did with Heidi with me," Rachel told "48 Hours."
Rachel Firkus' audio recordings
Rachel told Sipes that she confronted Nick about their financial problems and recorded it. She gave the recorded conversation to police.
Nick Firkus' arrest
On May 19, 2021, Nick was arrested for second-degree murder. A grand jury eventuallyon first- and second-degree murder charges.
The trial of Nick Firkus
Almost two years later, Nick went to trial. Prosecutors argued that Nick staged the burglary because he was desperate and ashamed about their financial issues. "… his lies are about to crumble. He would have been exposed as a complete failure ... and instead, he is a victim," prosecutor Elizabeth Lamin told "48 Hours."
A 3-D model
During the trial, prosecutors presented a 3-D model of the Firkus home, which was produced by the FBI, to demonstrate the size of entryway where the struggle occurred, and to prove how Nick's story was not reasonable. They also developed an animation of the crime to show how Heidi was shot.
Nick's defense lawyers, Joe Friedberg and Robert Richman, say Nick had no reason to kill Heidi. They say Heidi was fully aware of the foreclosure, and there was proof of the intruder.
"In fact, there were tool marks in the door, which would be consistent with someone wedging a screwdriver between the frame and the door," Richman said.
The verdict is in
On Feb. 10, 2023, after being on trial for 11 days,on two counts of murder.
Life in prison
On April 13, 2023, at Nick's sentencing hearing, he refused to accept guilt for Heidi's murder. "I do maintain and will maintain to my dying breath my innocence of this crime." The judge gave Nick a life sentence without parole. Nick is appealing his conviction.
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