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State calls first witnesses in Nicholas Firkus murder trial

Nicholas Firkus is charged in connection to the 2010 shooting death of his wife, Heidi Firkus.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Trial is officially underway for a man accused of murdering his wife on April 25, 2010. Prosecutors and defense attorneys delivered opening statements Friday afternoon in Ramsey County court. 

The state also called its first two witnesses before Judge Leonardo Castro excused the 15-person jury for the weekend. Witness testimony resumes 9 a.m. Monday.

In opening statements, attorneys presented two different accounts of what happened and why it happened. While prosecutors say Nicholas Firkus shot his wife, Heidi Firkus, and made up a story about an intruder, the defense insists the intruder was real.

Prosecutors began by telling the jury that Firkus "acted out of shame and fear" because of the couple's financial situation. They said the home they shared on Minnehaha Ave. was foreclosed and that they were set to be evicted but that Firkus never informed his wife of either situation. Prosecutors said there isn't evidence such as text messages proving Mrs. Firkus knew of either situation and that the couple's belongings weren't even packed. They were set to be evicted April 26, the day after her murder. The state claims Firkus staged a burglary, killed his wife, and shot himself in the upper thigh.

Defense attorneys told the jury that early that morning, Firkus heard a noise so he grabbed his shotgun and woke up Mrs. Firkus. They said an intruder then shot her dead before shooting Nicholas in the upper thigh during a struggle over the shotgun. The defense also said Mrs. Firkus was indeed aware of the couple's financial hardships but that they didn't tell friends and family about it. They said Mrs. Firkus had even brought home cardboard boxes from work that week, suggesting she was preparing to pack for the move.

The defense also emphasized witness testimony may not be accurate because so much time has passed since the murder. Prosecutors explained the 13-year gap between the crime and trial, saying officers were initially "ill-equipped" but that the St. Paul Police Department later received FBI assistance and that Mrs. Firkus' friends and family rallied around her husband for so long.

The courtroom was packed with people Friday. At one point, a woman held up the hand sign for "I love you." Firkus showed her a look of acknowledgement but was otherwise inconspicuous as he sat next to his attorneys during trial.

When the state called its first witnesses, two of four St. Paul officers who responded to the scene, they pulled up images of the Firkus home, which included shots of Mrs. Firkus' body on the kitchen floor.

Officers Darin McDonald and Yileng Vang testified in uniform, describing what they saw upon arrival at around 6:37 a.m. that April day. Cross examination focused largely on whether officers still remembered details of the scene. The defense also focused on the home's lighting but both officers said although the sun was still rising, they could clearly see everything in the home and did not need to use their police flashlights.

McDonald stated he did not see any obvious signs of forced entry or obvious signs of a struggle.

Firkus is charged with one count of first-degree premeditated murder and one count of second-degree murder with intent.

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