It’s April 25, 2010, at 6:30 in the morning, and 911 dispatch in St. Paul, MN has just received two hang-up calls from the same address on Minnehaha Avenue. Then a third call comes in, from the same address, but this time there is a young woman on the phone. “Someone’s trying to break in my house,” she tells the 911 operator. The operator tries to ask the young woman her address. The young woman, panicked, manages to get out the numbers, the street. The dispatcher tries to confirm with her, “West?”
But then there’s a loud noise, a bang, like a gun going off, and then silence. 911 dispatch is still on the line, and the police are on the line too, but the call from Minnehaha Avenue has been disconnected. Further calls go to voicemail.
Shortly after, another call comes in from the same address, this time a man. He’s extremely upset, screaming for help. “Please, please, someone just broke in our house and shot me and my wife!” As the operator tries to get information from the caller, he gives it in broken, frantic responses. “No!” he screams, as if in disbelief. The dispatcher asks the caller if he can describe the person who broke into his home. Race? What was he wearing? The caller stumbles, says he doesn’t know the race. “Maybe” he was wearing a sweatshirt.
“Are you the only one that’s injured?” the operator asks.
“No, my wife … I think she’s dead.”
“Did you shoot back?”
“No, you’re not armed, right?”
“My gun … because I heard ‘em break into the house … I woke up my wife so she’d run, so she could run to the garage…”
The 911 call continues for another minute or two, until paramedics arrive. The young woman is Heidi Firkus, just 25 years old. She is dead of a single gunshot wound to the back. Nick Firkus, 27, has been shot in the leg.
Nick and Heidi Firkus
Nick and Heidi Firkus met at a Roseville church where they were both youth group leaders. They married in 2005, when Heidi was just 20. They’d been married for just four and a half years at the time of the shooting.
According to John and Linda Erickson, Heidi’s parents, the young couple had agreed that Nick would be responsible for managing their finances. Investigators soon learned that the couple’s home, which they’d purchased in September of 2007, was under foreclosure. Their insurance agent had been notified that the couple’s homeowner’s insurance had been canceled as a result of the foreclosure. Investigators also learned that the couple was over $18,000 in debt with other bills.
This information came as a shock to Heidi’s family and others who were close to her. According to the Pioneer Press, Heidi’s friends said she was “never ashamed” to reveal personal information or have difficult conversations. They said she was always “earnest and truthful.” But none of them knew about the couple’s financial troubles. Nick told police that he and Heidi were planning on telling family and friends about the foreclosure that day.
Inconsistencies In Nick Firkus’s Story
Investigators ran into other strange inconsistencies regarding the early-morning shooting. When Nick Firkus was on the phone, he barely had any answers for the 911 dispatcher regarding the description of the supposed intruder. All he could say was that “maybe” the person had been wearing a sweatshirt. Later, when he was interviewed by police, Nick provided new details: a male, race unknown, around six feet tall, 200 – 220 pounds, wearing a dark hoodie. Then, three weeks later, more details, now enough to provide an artist (hired by Firkus’s attorney) with enough features that a composite sketch could be drawn. Now the man was definitively Black, and 40 to 60 years old.
Equally curious was that, despite the couple having an order to vacate the premises by the following day in accordance with the foreclosure, the couple had done no packing whatsoever, nor had they made any arrangements to find alternative housing or stay with friends or relatives. It didn’t look as though Heidi knew about the foreclosure at all.
Heidi had planned a night out with friends Friday night and emailed Nick about them beforehand. He replied, “I’m okay with that, as long as I can have you to myself tomorrow [Saturday] night.”
The FBI Gets Involved
After cleaning up the sound quality and doing a careful analysis of the 911 calls, joint work by the FBI and local investigators determined there were no background noises to indicate an intruder or a struggle. Nothing had been stolen from the home. There was no DNA from additional persons in the home.
Also, Nick consistently reported a struggle between himself and the intruder over the gun, but he kept changing the details of his story. First he said he’d gotten his gun and then the intruder had wrenched it away from him and shot both him and Heidi. In a later interview, Nick said the intruder had not succeeded in getting the gun away from him but rather that his own finger had slipped, causing the gun to go off by accident and hit Heidi in the back.
And yet there was no evidence at all of any kind of struggle, no toppled chairs or scrapes on walls. Nick’s description of how events unfolded didn’t align with forensic analysis of the scene in terms of the angle at which Heidi had been shot. Heidi didn’t indicate in her call to 911 that she had actually seen an intruder. The neighborhood was very quiet, peaceful, with rarely even a break-in, much less a break-in ending in murder.
Arresting Nick Firkus
May 19th of this year, 11 years after Heidi’s untimely death, a SWAT team closed in on Nick Firkus’s home in Mounds View and arrested him, charging him with second degree intentional murder. He was booked into the Ramsey County Jail and his bail was set Thursday morning at $3 million, which was then reduced after his attorney pointed out he did not have a criminal record. He was released that same afternoon after posting a $1 million bond and giving up his passport.
Nick Firkus’s next court date is July 1. If found guilty, he faces up to a 40-year prison sentence.