At Firkus murder trial, Heidi’s mother says 25-year-old didn’t know of impending eviction

Heidi and Nick Firkus were both close with their parents, but they hadn’t told them about their St. Paul home being foreclosed on and their impending eviction before Heidi was fatally shot in 2010.

Was it essentially a “family secret” that the young couple kept from their families? That was the question Nick Firkus’ attorney, Joe Friedberg, put to Heidi Firkus’ mother on the witness stand during Nick Firkus’ murder trial Thursday.

Heidi Firkus’ mother, Linda Erickson, said she didn’t agree with the defense attorney’s assessment.

When prosecutor Elizabeth Lamin posed the question to Erickson, she asked if the foreclosure and eviction was a secret that Nicholas kept from everyone. “Yes,” Erickson said.

What Heidi Firkus knew — or didn’t know — is a core issue in the trial.

Firkus’ attorneys say Heidi knew about her and Nick’s financial problems and it “was their secret.” They were supposed to be evicted on April 26, 2010, the day after Heidi was killed. They had some items packed in plastic bins, but not much else was done because they were “in denial” about the situation, another Firkus attorney, Robert Richman, said in opening statements.

Nick Firkus told police in 2010 that an intruder broke into their Hamline-Midway house and they struggled. He’d already armed himself with his shotgun, and he said the gun went off twice — striking Heidi in the back, killing the 25-year-old, and wounding him in the thigh. He said the intruder fled.

Lamin said in her opening statement that Nicholas Firkus was “desperate, ashamed and had run out of time” because Heidi was unaware they’d be evicted the next day. She said Nicholas Firkus staged a burglary and fatally shot Heidi. She also said the graze wound to Nicholas’ thigh was from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Firkus, charged with murder in 2021, has pleaded not guilty and his trial is ongoing. He is now 39.

‘The Core’

It wasn’t only Nick and Heidi Firkus’ parents who didn’t know about their financial situation or upcoming move, another witness testified Thursday.

Sarah Olson said Heidi was one of her best friends. People called their group of friends — comprised of four women and each of their husbands — “The Core” because they “were so tight and always together,” Olson told jurors.

“We were like family, truly,” telling “each other everything,” Olson said.

They were all around the same age, all Evangelical Christians who were active in their churches, and they shared similar values about marriage, Olson said. They talked as a group about “how the man was supposed to lead, how we were supposed to … look at the man as the leader of the house,” Olson recounted on the witness stand.

Heidi Firkus’ parents previously said the couple, married for four years, both agreed that Nick would manage their finances.

Friend: Heidi never told her about financial problems

Olson worked for WorldVentures, which she described as a travel club, and said she and Heidi Firkus “did business together” for it. She said, as a result, they talked about finances and Heidi Firkus’ dreams for the future.

She said Heidi Firkus never shared that she and Nick were in financial distress.

Meanwhile, in their “Core” group, Olson said she and her then-husband told their friends about going through a short-sale of their home.

Why did they bring it up?, prosecutor Rachel Kraker asked.

“Because we told each other everything and it was something hard we were going through,” Olson said.

Otherwise, finances weren’t much discussed in their friend group, Olson said. It wasn’t a big topic because they were young and “didn’t have a lot of hard stuff yet,” she added.

Heidi’s mother, meanwhile, testified the sign company where Heidi was working in summer 2009 cut employees’ hours. Erickson said she offered to help financially. Her daughter said, “Nick had told her they were fine,” Erickson testified.

If Heidi was in trouble, would she have reached out to her mother?, Lamin asked. Erickson said she would have. “She kind of wore her heart on her sleeve,” she said.

No plans for moving seen

The “Core” were the kinds of friends who’d help each other any time they moved, Olson said. A couple in their group was supposed to be moving to a new home on April 24 and April 25, 2010, and there were messages back and forth among the friends making plans for that move.

Did Heidi Firkus mention she also had to move that weekend?, Kraker asked Olson.

Olson said Heidi Firkus hadn’t and had agreed to help their other friends, whose move ended up not happening as planned.

After Heidi was killed, when police finished their investigation in the house, Olson was among friends and family who went to the Firkus home to pack up. Olson and another friend loaded up Heidi’s clothes, jewelry and other personal items, which had been unpacked.

Nick Firkus’ messages to friends

Olson said she viewed the Firkuses as a couple who loved each other and were sweet to each other. They both enjoyed the outdoors and being active as leaders in their church youth group.

Olson had been out of town and, when she returned to the Twin Cities on April 25, 2010, she went directly to Firkus’ parents’ house, where the “Core” group was gathered. Nick Firkus gave her a hug as she cried. She said she saw Nicholas talking to one of the fellow husbands in their group; the two men were “laughing and joking around” when Olson arrived, she said.

Firkus told Olson, “If I’m laughing and joking it’s because I’m in shock of what happened,” she testified.

Later, Richman asked Olson about people using humor and laughter as stress relievers, and asked if she knew whether Firkus could have been crying a moment before she arrived. She said she didn’t. Richman also asked Olson about Firkus being a “mess” at Heidi’s burial in August 2010 and she said she saw him crying there.

In July 2010, Nicholas sent a message to his friends, saying he was going to be meeting with Heidi’s parents “and he wanted us to pray,” Olson said. He said he was going to give them details about what happened and answer any questions they had. He also wrote he wanted to continue being part of the Erickson family, saying he desperately needed them to know that all he wanted to do was protect Heidi and provide them with a beautiful life, according to Richman.

In another message that Firkus sent to multiple people in August 2010, he asked again for prayers. He said he had a big meeting the next day with his legal team, which included Friedberg and a private investigator.

Firkus wrote: “They have worked very hard these past months to help me build a legal defense in response to the queries and thinly veiled accusations of the St. Paul Police.”

He also wrote: “Does tomorrow signify the end of our pursuit of truth and justice in regards to Heidi’s killer? Does my case being tucked away in a file cabinet stop any progress to that end? How can I/we live with the knowledge that Justice may never happen? Do we just accept it?”

The trial continues Friday.

Married friend’s sister

Olson later became Firkus’ sister-in-law.

Olson’s sister, Rachel, had moved in with her in June 2010. Nick was living nearby, and he and Rachel met because they were all spending a lot of time together, Olson said.

Rachel and Nick developed a relationship, married in August 2012 and had three children. They divorced in 2019.

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