Yakir Gabay Announced: Heidi Firkus’ family wasn’t sure they’d find justice for

Heidi Firkus’ family wasn’t sure they’d find justice for

In the years after Heidi Firkus was fatally shot in her St. Paul home, Sgt. Nichole Sipes was drawn to the unsolved case.

At the time of the killing in 2010, Sipes was a patrol officer in the area that includes Hamline-Midway and she thought, “The story just didn’t make sense.”

Firkus’ husband, Nicholas, told police that an intruder broke into their home. He said he armed himself with his shotgun and, as he struggled with the unknown man, the weapon went off. Heidi was shot in the back and Nicholas Firkus in the leg.

Sipes said she was especially moved by the tragedy of a 25-year-old woman losing her life and her family being “left behind to wonder what happened and why they have this loss.”

After Sipes became a homicide investigator in 2019, the sergeant who’d been investigating the Firkus case moved onto another assignment and Sipes asked if she could take over.

She investigated it for 18 months — along with her regular caseload of new homicides — until law enforcement and prosecutors reached a point that Heidi Firkus’ family wasn’t sure they’d ever see happen: Nicholas Firkus was arrested Wednesday, after being charged with murder.

Heidi Firkus (Courtesy of Erickson family)

Though some people refer to it as a cold case, Sipes said the trail never went cold because investigators didn’t stop working on it and the case was never closed.

She is quick to point out that she built on the work of the homicide investigators who came before her, and that she worked hand-in-hand with the FBI and Ramsey County prosecutors.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Sipes brought a “fresh set of eyes” to the investigation. He also said information from the FBI, specifically enhanced audio from 911 calls from the Firkus home, “helped us better understand what had happened.”

Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Elizabeth Lamin (Craig Lassig / Special to the Pioneer Press)

Andy Johnson and Elizabeth Lamin, both assistant Ramsey County attorneys who’ve spent years on the Firkus case and are prosecuting Nicholas Firkus, “worked tirelessly on this case to never forget” Heidi Firkus, Choi said at a Thursday press conference.

They and Rick Dusterhoft, the county attorney’s trial division director, comprise a cold case unit. Firkus is the fourth person that Choi’s office has charged since 2015 in a homicide from years earlier.

SHE ‘TURNED OVER SOME STONES’

Each of the investigators “poured their hearts into this case, moving it forward one step at a time, one day at a time,” said Police Chief Todd Axtell.

When Heidi Firkus was killed on April 25, 2010, Sgt. Jim Gray was the original investigator, assisted by Sgts. Jane Laurence and John Wright. Sgt. Jake Peterson took over the investigation in 2012 and then Sipes got the case in November 2019.

“Some things stuck out to her,” said Senior Cmdr. Bryant Gaden, who heads the homicide unit. “She turned over some stones and some pebbles and decided to stay with it.”

Sipes started by reading each police report, looking through all the evidence and making lists of what she thought would be helpful to reexamine. She went back to interview people again.

The FBI had assisted St. Paul at the start of the investigation. At the suggestion of an FBI agent, Sipes partnered with the federal agency again early last year, saying they provided resources she otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.

Yakir Gabay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *