Nicholas Firkus, the St. Paul man who claimed his wife was fatally shot as he struggled with a burglar during a home invasion nearly 13 years ago, was found guilty of murder Friday.

Jurors returned their verdicts on one count of first-degree premeditated murder and another of second-degree murder with intent in the slaying of Heidi Firkus on April 25, 2010. They deliberated for about four hours.

Firkus, 39, will be sentenced April 13 in Ramsey County District Court.

Gasps filled the courtroom when the verdicts were read. Tears flowed outside the courtroom as supporters of Nick Firkus took in the decision. Others were relieved that justice had been served after all these years.

"It's been a long time coming," said Marcus Sarazin, who was one of Heidi Firkus' high school youth leaders at Calvary Church in Roseville. "We wanted truth to be exposed either way. We wanted some closure and answers to what really happened. I think the jury got it right."

Sarazin and his wife, Katina, attended all 11 days of the trial. Scores of family members and friends watched from the gallery, which also drew correspondents from national crime shows.

Prosecutors called more than 50 witnesses as they laid out their case that Firkus intentionally shot his wife. They said he hadn't told her about their dire financial problems, including $18,000 in credit card debt and 22 months of late mortgage payments that had led to a foreclosure on their home.

The couple was to be evicted the next day. Shame and fear led him to carry out the killing, prosecutors said.

"Nick did the unthinkable," prosecuting attorney Rachel Kraker said in a closing argument Friday. "He took Heidi's life and saved his reputation."

Nicholas Firkus did not testify.

The case had gone cold until 2019, when St. Paul police reopened the investigation and asked the FBI for help. With new evidence, Firkus was charged in 2021.

"While nothing will bring Heidi back to her family and friends, we do hope this verdict provides them with some measure of closure," County Attorney John Choi said in a statement.

Before Friday's deliberations began, defense lawyers argued that prosecutors had not provided sufficient evidence to find Firkus guilty, and they asked Judge Leonardo Castro for an acquittal, which he denied.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Robert Richman said that on the day of the murder, Firkus struggled with an intruder inside the couple's home in the 1700 block of W. Minnehaha Avenue. As they fought, he said, a shotgun Firkus held in his hand fired twice. Richman said the first shot hit Heidi in the back as she called 911, killing her. The second shot struck Nicholas Firkus in the leg, he said.

"You don't kill the love of your life to spare yourself from momentary embarrassment," Richman said. "He was publicly humiliated, and the woman he loved was dead."

He said there is evidence to support that a burglar tried to break into the couple's home, including tool marks on the front door.

Prosecutors gave a different version of events: They said Firkus was upstairs, where he loaded his shotgun, then told his wife, who was sleeping, that somebody was breaking into the house. They said he sent her downstairs to escape and followed behind, releasing the gun's safety feature so it would fire. At the bottom of the stairs, as the intruder allegedly entered the home, the gun fired, the prosecutors said.

"In desperation and panic, he did something he didn't mean," Kraker said. "Heidi's fear on the 911 call was real, but the intruder was fake."

She told jurors that if they didn't believe an intruder was present, then Firkus must be found guilty.

"He absolutely made the decision to end his wife's life to try to save his own," Kraker said.

Richman countered that Heidi was aware of the couple's financial problems and was planning to find an apartment for them, and that her husband had drafted a list of goals that included connecting with her, friends and family.

"This is not somebody planning to kill his wife," he said. "For the last 13 years, police have been trying to prove Nick killed his wife. What the state brought you is speculation, conjecture and presumptions.

"Nick Firkus has waited 13 years to clear his name. Now it is in your hands."

The jury rejected that version.

"It breaks our heart for Heidi's family. And for Nick's family," Katina Sarazin said. "But there is finally justice, and truth is finally being exposed, and that ultimately is what we wanted."