A Utah mom is charged in her husband's death. Did she poison him with a cocktail?

On March 4, 2022, Kouri Richins says she found her husband, Eric Richins, unresponsive in their bed. First responders tried to save him, but it was too late for the father of three. Weeks later, police said Richins’ death was caused by an overdose of fentanyl. The grieving widow from Utah was arrested and charged with murder shortly after she wrote a children’s book to help their kids cope with grief.

In her first primetime interview, Kouri Richins’ mother, Lisa Darden, tells “48 Hours” contributor and “The Talk” co-host Natalie Morales that hours before Eric Richins was found unresponsive, the couple was celebrating a new house-flipping deal Kouri was working on. Kouri Richins told investigators she had made her husband a Moscow mule that night. But something didn’t sit right when the medical examiner ruled Eric Richins died from a lethal dose of fentanyl,according to his family’s spokesman, Greg Skordas.

“He wasn’t an opioid user … This doesn’t smell right,” says Skordas.

Kouri Richins was later arrested and charged with murder. Prosecutors allege she gave Eric Richins a lethal dose of fentanyl on the night of his death. Eric’s family suspects she placed the fentanyl in that Moscow mule.

“He told his family, ‘If I die, you need to take a look at her because I think she’s trying to kill me,'”  Skordas tells Morales.

Kouri Richins maintains she’s innocent. Her attorney, Skye Lazaro, says prosecutors, “have to prove that she obtained drugs and gave them to her husband … And unless they can connect those dots, they’re gonna have a hard time proving murder in this case.”


In the early morning hours of March 4, 2022, Lisa Darden was attempting to console her daughter, 31-year-old Kouri Richins.

Lisa Darden: She was spread out on the floor … just sobbing.

Kouri had just learned from emergency personnel that her husband Eric was dead.

Lisa Darden: She was tore up.

Her brothers Ronney and DJ were also there.

Ronney Darden: She is a complete wreck.

DJ: I just started crying.

According to Lisa, that night Kouri had poured Eric a drink to celebrate a new opportunity at her real estate business — the purchase of a mansion.

Lisa Darden: She told me she made him a Moscow mule.

That’s a drink made with vodka and ginger beer.

Lisa Darden: She said they went to bed about 9, 9:15, she went and laid with Ash. … Ashton, the 9-year-old has always had major nightmares. … And when she went back to get in her bed, he was cold. … she went to push on him, and he didn’t respond.

It was after 3 a.m., and Lisa says Kouri immediately called 911 and at the dispatcher’s instructions, performed CPR. When first responders arrived they started working on Eric – but it was too late.

Ronney Darden: It’s just unbelievable. You’re — you’re in shock that something like that, you know, could happen.

It was those first responders who initially suspected Eric had died of an aneurism. The father of three young sons was just 39.

Natalie Morales: How were the boys? Did the boys know what was happening?

Lisa Darden: They knew something was happening and … they could see the ambulances and cops coming in, very distraught.

Ronney Darden: They all just sat there … on the couch and just cried together.

The sad scene was a far cry from the happy family they once were.

Eric and Kouri Richins
Eric and Kouri Richins

Skye Lazaro

Kouri and Eric met in 2009 at a local Home Depot. Back then Kouri was a cashier. Eric worked in construction and was a frequent customer.

Ronney Darden: I heard that he wanted her number for a long time, is kind of afraid to go get it. So, he had to — have a friend run in and go get it from her.

Eric asked her out, and they hit it off.

Natalie Morales: When Kouri said I’m dating this guy, what did you think?

DJ: Uh, Kouri was terrified of me meeting him.

Natalie Morales: Oh, really?

DJ: Yeah.

Natalie Morales: Why?

DJ: Because I’m the big brother and —

Natalie Morales: Tough.

DJ: Yeah. Yeah.

But DJ and Ronney say Eric fit right in.

Ronney Darden: I thought he was a great guy.

In 2013, Kouri and Eric got married and had the boys – first Carter, then Ashton, and finally, Weston. Lisa says fatherhood came easily to Eric.

Lisa Darden: (He) taught those boys so much … They idolized their father, and he idolized the boys as well.

Kouri’s family got to know the Richins, including Eric’s two sisters Katie and Amy.

Ronney Darden: They’d come up, uh, for birthdays here and there. … We’re all very friendly.

Eventually Eric started a stone masonry business and Kouri started her own real estate company – buying houses, fixing them up, and selling them for profit. Greg Hall was her marketing director and good friend.

Greg Hall: Kouri had something that a lot of people don’t. A lot of times you find an individual that is intelligent, but no common sense or common sense and no intelligence. She had both. … She was a brilliant young lady.

Natalie Morales: How many houses would she have on average that she was working on or trying to flip

Lisa Darden: At one time?

Natalie Morales: Yeah.

Lisa Darden: I would say on average three.

Natalie Morales: So it was kind of a constant rotation —

Lisa Darden: Yes.

Natalie Morales: — of buying a home, fixing it up, selling it?

Lisa Darden: Yes.

And Eric’s business continued to flourish.

Lisa Darden: They both lived very well, and they both bought and spent what they wanted.

In their spare time, Eric loved to hunt, and together they traveled the world.

Natalie Morales: It sounds like on the surface, Eric and Kouri seem to have it all. Would you say that was so Lisa?

Lisa Darden: I would say that, yes.

Greg Skordas: I don’t know that I can even begin to overstate how close this family was … this was a huge loss

Greg Skordas is the spokesman for Eric’s family.

Greg Skordas: He was this beautiful son and — and brother … And to have that taken away from you, I — I can’t imagine much worse than that.

Eric Richins
Eric Richins

Skye Lazaro

Not long after Eric’s funeral, an autopsy revealed the cause of his death. It wasn’t an aneurism — it was a lethal dose of fentanyl.

Greg Skordas: Fentanyl is many, many times more potent than oxys, and the other pain medications that we typically use. It’s a very dangerous drug.

But how did fentanyl get into Eric’s system? Kouri’s family believes his recreational drug use could be to blame. Nearly every day, they say, Eric would take a gummy with THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Ronney Darden: It was always just — just to relax at the end of the day.

And according to Ronney, Eric did not always get the gummies from reputable sources.

Ronney Darden: Just about every trip that I had been on with him, he’d buy just from someone off the street.

Lisa says Eric also sometimes took pain pills.

Lisa Darden: Hey, do you have any pain pills? Hey, can you call and get — or hook me up?

Greg Skordas: He certainly wasn’t an opioid or an illegal drug user.

Kouri’s family thinks Eric had taken something he didn’t know was laced with fentanyl, and that his death was a tragic accident. Eric’s family strongly disputes this claim.

Greg Skordas: He didn’t die of a self-inflicted drug overdose.

Eric’s family wondered if Kouri may have been involved.

Greg Skordas: They said … This doesn’t smell right. … No question the family thought that right from the beginning.


In the months following her husband’s tragic passing, Kouri Richins struggled to find her footing on her own and to navigate life as a single mom.

Ronney Darden: Kouri was still completely distraught. … even now, she’s never had time to … grieve. … she’s doing her best to move on, she didn’t know of a way of doing that.

Kouri’s brother Ronney says it was also hard for the couples’ three young sons.

Ronney Darden: The boys, it’s so hard for them they lashed out a little bit because they couldn’t quite understand what was going on. … they needed some help and Kouri needed some help.

Eventually Kouri found a way to turn her grief into action.

In March 2023, one year after Eric’s death, Kouri came up with the idea to write that children’s book about coping with loss, ” Are You With Me?” She promoted it on a local TV show, “Good Things Utah.”

KOURI RICHINS | “Good Things Utah”: I just wanted some story to read to my kids at night … And so, you know, I was like, let’s just write one.

“Are You With Me?” by Kouri Richins 


The self-published book follows the story of a child who lost his father but is reminded his presence still exists all around.

In the book, Eric is portrayed as an angel who is always close by. “Yes, I am with you on Christmas,” Kouri writes, “You can’t see my smile but it’s there. I’m here, and we’re together.”

KOURI RICHINS | “Good Things Utah”: Like dad is still here, it’s just in a different way.

Kouri’s mother, Lisa, says writing the book was therapeutic.

Lisa Darden: I think the book was a great thing.

Natalie Morales: It helped them.

Lisa Darden: It helped them all.

Her family says it finally seemed as though Kouri and the boys would be able to move forward.

Ronney Darden: It seemed to make … the boys really happy.

While the family was working to get back on track, police had been investigating Eric’s death. And just weeks after Kouri’s appearance on TV to promote her book —

KUTV NEWS REPORT: New at 10. This has been a talker all day today a Summit County woman who wrote a children’s book about coping with grief following her husband’s death … now accused of being the one that actually killed him.

On May 8, 2023, Kouri, the grieving wife, was now the prime suspect in her husband’s death.

Natalie Morales: You must have been in a panic

Lisa Darden: I was shocked. … She can’t be arrested.

Kouri was charged with aggravated murder and taken into custody. Court documents allege she “committed homicide” by the “administration of a poison.”

Greg Skordas, the spokesman for Eric’s family, suspects Kouri put a lethal dose of fentanyl in the drink she made Eric that night: the Moscow mule.

Greg Skordas: The dosage that he was given that night was of such a high level that no person could have survived it.

Skye Lazaro is her attorney.

Natalie Morales: Did police ever test the glass that she gave Eric this cocktail in?

Skye Lazaro: They seized a number of items from the home, uh, and there was no fentanyl that was found on any glassware.

Kouri’s family says they struggled to make sense of the charges. Kouri denies any involvement in her husband’s death.

Lisa Darden: For anybody who knows Kouri just knows … She could not have done this. … She’d never do this.

Eric and Kouri Richins
Eric and Kouri Richins

Skye Lazaro

Lisa says her daughter and son-in-law had a great relationship.

Lisa Darden: Nobody’s perfect, but they’re pretty close.

And like many couples that have disagreements, they were able to overcome their differences.

Lisa Darden: He didn’t want Kouri to work. He wanted her to be a stay-at-home mom and she’s very independent and that wasn’t going to happen.

Another issue, says Kouri’s brother Ronney, was the amount of time Eric spent away on hunting trips — sometimes four or five months a year.

Ronney Darden: It just kind of irked her. … because that … his biggest passion in life is hunting, and she might want him home a little bit more. And so, you know, they might get in a fight about that.

And then, according to Kouri’s mother Lisa, there was alleged infidelity on Eric’s part. She says she heard about it first from Kouri, and then from Eric.

Lisa Darden: It was a text about trust, how I trusted him as a son-in-law, as a father, as a husband. And how could he do this?

Kouri’s family says the couple went to counseling, determined to work through their issues. Skordas, who denies Eric ever cheated on Kouri, says Eric had a different reason for wanting to make his marriage work.

Greg Skordas: He was going to do whatever he could to make it work because he — he lived for those boys. He would have done anything for those boys. … let’s – let’s go to counseling. Let’s try to keep the family together.

Skordas says at one point Eric had considered divorce, but ultimately decided against it. He says to protect the boys in case the relationship didn’t work out, Eric put his estate into a secret trust — without telling Kouri — and named his sister Katie in charge. But in the months leading up to Eric’s death, Ronney says the couple seemed better than ever.

Natalie Morales: How were they doing as a couple, as a family?

Ronney Darden: Yeah, fantastic. They were, um, probably one of the best spots I’ve ever, seen them in in quite some time. … everyone is having fun, laughing, joking. You know, it’s — it seemed really great to me.

So why would Kouri want Eric dead? Court documents allege a life insurance payout might have been a motive. Skordas says Eric’s family agrees.

Greg Skordas: This is cold-hearted greed.

At the time of Eric’s death there were “at least six life insurance policies” on him, totaling nearly $3 million. Court documents allege that in January 2022, two months before Eric died, Kouri “forged Eric signature” to get yet another policy, worth an additional $100,000. Kouri is also accused in court documents of stealing from Eric’s personal accounts and “misappropriating monies distributed from Eric Richins’ business” dating back years.

According to Skordas, Kouri didn’t just want the money, she desperately needed it. Court documents allege her house flipping business was “drowning in nearly two million dollars of debt.”

Greg Skordas: She was in way over her head. … She needed some money in a hurry. … a significant amount of money.

Skordas says a premarital agreement stipulated Kouri had given up claim to Eric’s business assets “except that if Husband should die prior to Wife while the two are lawfully married.” 

Greg Skordas: He was worth much more to her dead than divorced. … She felt … that there was easy money and fast money to be made by not having her husband around anymore.

Kouri Richins
Kouri Richins

Skye Lazaro

Kouri’s attorney Skye Lazaro strongly disputes any allegations her client forged Eric’s signature, mishandled finances or stole from Eric. As for the claim Kouri was in debt and needed the money, she says that’s simply not true.

Skye Lazaro: She was in the business of flipping houses … this is what they did.

Lazaro says taking on debt from lines of credit was part of how the business of flipping houses worked, and the money would be paid back when a home sold.

Skye Lazaro: It’s not as if she had all these conventional loans that she owed people money on it. … sure, it looks like a large number. But … We’re talking about business transactions with people who she … did business with.

Lisa Darden: Eric and Kouri sat down every month and did the bills together. At all times, Eric knew what was going in and what was coming out.

Lisa says Eric not only knew about the finances – but he was also very supportive of Kouri’s new business opportunities – like the purchase of the mansion they were celebrating the night he died.

Lisa Darden: Eric saying, “Let’s have a shot. Come on, let’s celebrate Kouri.”

It was that night, Skordas says, Eric’s family believes Kouri gave him the Moscow mule laced with fentanyl. And, he says, Eric’s family believes it wasn’t the first time Kouri had tried to poison her husband.

Greg Skordas: The time he died wasn’t the first time we believed that she tried to kill him.


Just outside Salt Lake City, in the shadow of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains — home to famed ski resorts including Park City — is the property that Kouri Richins was planning on flipping. The deal she and Eric were celebrating the night he died, says her attorney, Skye Lazaro.

Skye Lazaro: It’s a decently good size home.

Lazaro showed “48 Hours” the nearly 10-acre estate.

Natalie Morales: Where are we? Give us a sense of why this is significant real estate.

Skye Lazaro: So this is the Heber Valley. Uh, right over the hill is Park City … all the major ski areas. Uh, and then to the right is Deer Creek reservoir. … So this really sits … between major recreational areas.

The Heber City, Utah, mansion
The Heber City, Utah, mansion.

CBS News

Natalie Morales: It looks ginormous.

Skye Lazaro: It’s massive.

The 20,000-square-foot mansion and its 4,000-square-foot guesthouse were originally built in 2017 but never finished. The project was abandoned for two years until Kouri discovered it.

Skye Lazaro: I think this … was kind of her dream when she got into this idea of flipping houses was to be able to do properties like this.

Lazaro says Kouri used financing from a group of investors to make an offer on the house for $3.9 million.

Skye Lazaro: The plan was to develop this, turn it into a recreational hotspot, given this is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world and … hopefully sell it at a profit.

Natalie Morales: How much did she think she could make off of this house?

Lisa Darden: Her and Eric sat down with an accountant one time, and he said, if you can get it done and stay under budget, you could walk away with $12 million.

Natalie Morales: Wow. … That’s a — that’s a big turn.

Lisa Darden: Yes.

Natalie Morales: From $3.9 to $12 million.

Lisa Darden: Yes.

Greg Hall worked with Kouri. He says it was a solid investment.

Greg Hall: There was a lot of excitement. I remember how excited she was. … it would’ve been a real easy flip. They wouldn’t have had to — to sit on that for long.

Natalie Morales: As far as you know, Eric was on board with this plan?

Lisa Darden: Oh, a hundred percent.

But that’s not what Eric’s family remembers, says their spokesman Greg Skordas.

Greg Skordas: I don’t think he was ever in favor of that … He was on board with supporting his wife. That doesn’t mean he agreed with it.

In fact, the house is mentioned in a legal filing, containing notes from an investigator who interviewed Eric’s family after his death. They said “Eric and his wife were arguing” about buying the property.

And that wasn’t all Eric’s family told investigators. According to that same filing, they made numerous allegations against Kouri, including that they suspected “his wife had something to do with his death. They advised he warned them that if anything happened to him… she was to blame.”

They also told investigators they believed Kouri had tried to poison Eric before, on two separate occasions.

According to the filing, Eric’s family said the first attempted poisoning was in 2019 when Eric and Kouri and six friends were on vacation in Greece. They said Eric became “violently ill” after Kouri “gave him a drink.” Ronney says he heard it was all a misunderstanding. 

Ronney Darden: Eric was on medication and … that medication, you’re not allowed to drink on … he asked the waitress, uh, to bring a, a virgin drink, a drink without alcohol. … She didn’t do it and made him very, very sick. … Kouri called his doctor. Um, figured out what to do and … later that night he was back and — and fine. … everyone that was there will tell you the exact same thing.

According to that same filing, the second time Eric’s family said Kouri tried to poison Eric was the month before Eric died, on Valentine’s Day 2022. They said, “his wife brought him a sandwich, which after one bite Eric broke into hives and couldn’t breathe.” Kouri’s family denies she ever tried to poison him.

Ronney Darden: They ordered a sandwich, and the sandwich was bad.

Skye Lazaro: He went and took a nap and then went and coached one of his child’s games.

Skye Lazaro: Aside from an assertion … by the family, uh, there doesn’t seem to be anything else out there that supports that.

Eric’s family also called into question Kouri’s behavior following her husband’s death.

According to court documents, Eric’s family told investigators two days after Eric died, Kouri punched Eric’s sister Amy “in the neck and face” when Amy tried to stop her from opening a safe they said contained “between $125,000 and $165,000 cash.”

Ronney Darden: There was an argument that broke out. … and … Eric’s sister said that she owns the house. … everything is put into a trust, and she owns the house.

Remember, Eric had created that trust — and kept it secret from Kouri — when they were going through those marital problems. Until Eric’s death, Kouri knew nothing about the trust, according to court documents.

Ronney Darden: If Eric had any sort of documents, he’d have them in the safe … So, she went in to go, see what was in there. … Amy came after Kouri, and then, you know, Kouri defended herself.

DJ: The two of them started pushing and … I was standing in the middle of them. … All they did was push. Both of them were trying to swing over the top of me. … So the narrative that’s been pushed that it was — poor Amy got assaulted was nonsense.

The brothers say Amy stormed off and called the police. A month later Kouri was charged with assault and later pleaded no contest.

Skye Lazaro: Her husband’s just passed away, she’s highly emotional. Everybody is —

Natalie Morales: Mm-hmm.

Skye Lazaro: — highly emotional. … things got a little heated between them.

Two families. Two very different stories about what they believe happened to Eric. But with accusations flying back and forth, what did the evidence show?

Skye Lazaro: The state has to prove … that she did this, that she got the drugs and that she somehow gave them to him.

Greg Skordas: She had apparently … contacted a drug dealer, a known drug dealer in that area, and purchased fentanyl and had, uh — done it on more than one occasion.


In June 2023, Kouri Richins appeared in court before Judge Richard Mrazik for a bond hearing.

JUDGE RICHARD MRAZIK: The issue before the court is whether defendant Kouri Richins should continue to be held without bail during the pre-trial period.

It was the first time since Richins had been charged in her husband’s death that the public got to see her. And for the entire four-hour hearing, she sat in handcuffs next to her attorney, Skye Lazaro. 

Skye Lazaro: I cannot imagine how difficult it was for Kouri to sit there and listen to everything that was talked about at that hearing.  

Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband then wrote a children's book about grieving, looks on during a bail hearing June 12, 2023, in Park City, Utah.
Kouri Richins looks on during a bail hearing on June 12, 2023, in Park City, Utah.

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

To convince the judge why Richins should not be released, prosecutors Patricia Cassell, Brad Bloodworth, and Joseph Hill presented evidence and called witnesses to make their case Richins had poisoned her husband. It had all the elements of a mini trial.

Skye Lazaro: In order for the judge to make a determination to detain someone at a bail hearing, the state has to prove substantial evidence.

Prosecutor Joseph Hill called to the stand cellphone expert Chris Kotodrimos.

He asked him about Google searches he says Richins made on her phone.

JOSEPH HILL (in court): Were you able to observe, uh, Internet searches on that phone?


Those searches – which were detailed in court documents – included:

  • Can deleted text messages be retrieved from an iPhone?
  • Can FBI find deleted messages?
  • What is a lethal dose of fentanyl?

Skye Lazaro: I don’t know that these searches mean as much when you look at the timing of when they’re done.

Lazaro says there’s an innocent explanation: those searches were conducted after Eric’s death.

Skye Lazaro: I think it’s more to answer questions relating to what she was being accused of.

The state also called to the stand the lead the investigator on the case Detective Jeff O’Driscoll. 

DET. O’DRISCOLL (in court): I was assigned to be the lead — the lead detective in this case in April of this year.

Prosecutor Bloodworth questioned Detective O’Driscoll about where Richins may have gotten fentanyl. He specifically asked about an interview the detective conducted with Carmen Lauber, who said she worked for Richins. She’s referred to as C.L. 

DET. O’DRISCOLL (in court): C.L. is an associate of the defendant. Uh, she cleaned houses for the defendant’s business, as well as her personal home at times.

Detective O’Driscoll said C.L had a criminal history with drugs. At the time of their interview she was on probation for multiple drug distribution charges, according to court records. She has not been charged in connection with Eric’s death.

DET. O’DRISCOLL (in court): in our interview C.L. told us that in early 2022, the defendant reached out to her either by phone call or text message requesting that she procure fentanyl for what the defendant reported was a investor who had a back injury.

Detective O’Driscoll testified that C.L. told him she purchased 15-30 fentanyl pills and then sold them to Richins.

DET. O’DRISCOLL (in court): C.L. told us that after purchasing the pills she returned home … she said that either later that night or the next day, the defendant met her … and did a hand-to-hand exchange of pills for cash.

That transaction, says Detective O’Driscoll, took place on Feb. 11, 2022 – three days before Valentine’s Day – when, according to court documents, Eric’s family said Richins had tried and failed to poison Eric with that sandwich. But there was more.

BRAD BLOODWORTH: (in court) We’re gonna now shift … to a second drug buy

Detective O’Driscoll said C.L. told him Richins contacted her again approximately a week later.

DET. O’DRISCOLL (in court): The defendant reached out to her again by text or, or call and said that she wanted some more fentanyl that was stronger than the previous batch.

This time, Detective O’Driscoll said, C.L. told him Richins paid by check.

DET. O’DRISCOLL (in court): The defendant came to the door and wrote her a check from her business, from the defendant’s business for $1,300 for the purchase of the fentanyl.

Just a week later, Eric was dead.

Skye Lazaro: We dispute all of those allegations.

In her cross-examination, Lazaro asked Detective O’Driscoll if there could have been another reason for that $1,300 check.

SKYE LAZARO (in court): It could very well be that Kouri was paying her for cleaning houses, correct?

DET. O’DRISCOLL: I don’t wanna speculate, but —

SKYE LAZARO: It could be.

DET. O’DRISCOLL: It’s possible.

SKYE LAZARO: Despite what C.L. said? Correct? OK.

Lazaro says because Carmen Lauber is a convicted felon she’s not credible.

Skye Lazaro: She … was on probation at the time. I think anytime you have an informant-type situation … it can call into question the veracity of their statements or the motive for what they’re saying.

In her cross-examination of Detective O’Driscoll, Lazaro attempted to show how C.L. might have felt pressure to tell investigators what they wanted to hear.

SKYE LAZARO (in court): You begin the interview by explaining to C.L. essentially how dire of a situation she’s in, correct?

DET. O’DRISCOLL: I don’t have the interview memorized, but I know we talked about that. Yes.

SKYE LAZARO: OK. Well, you told her that she was on probation to drug court for four first-degree felonies, correct?


SKYE LAZARO: You essentially tell her that she has the potential of doing a considerable amount of state and federal prison time, potentially.

DET. O’DRISCOLL: Yes. This is a common tactic in law enforcement to be able to leverage charges for information.

Lazaro also asked the detective what evidence there was to back up C.L.’s claims that she had sold fentanyl to Richins. 

SKYE LAZARO (in court): Because C.L.’s working for the defendant there’s communication, correct?


But Detective O’Driscoll said he saw no text messages where Richins allegedly asks C.L. for drugs.

DET. O’DRISCOLL (in court): We didn’t find any.

SKYE LAZARO: Was anyone with her that could corroborate that she saw C.L. hand Kouri drugs?

DET. O’DRISCOLL: Not that I know of.

“48 Hours” attempted to contact C.L. for comment; we received no response.

Skye Lazaro: They have to prove that she obtained drugs and gave them to her husband.

Skye Lazaro: And unless they can connect those dots, they’re gonna have a hard time proving murder in this case.


As Kouri Richins’ bond hearing came to a close, her attorney Skye Lazaro was hopeful her client would be granted bail.

Skye Lazaro: This is a case in which there doesn’t appear to be any smoking gun. These cases are generally more favorable to the defense.

The prosecution closed its case to deny Richins bail with a victim impact statement from Eric’s sister, Amy.

AMY RICHINS (in court): I’m here today to represent my brother, Eric Eugene Richins. … Eric is gone and I am brokenhearted. … None of our lives will ever be the same. Eric died under horrendous circumstances. I am tormented at the thought of what he endured … Please do not allow Kouri to hurt Eric’s memory, our family, friends, and community anymore. We have been through enough.

Judge Richard Mrazik spent very little time making his decision: Richins would remain in custody.

JUDGE RICHARD MRAZIK: The circumstances of this case weigh soundly against granting pre-trial release of any kind.

Richins’ family was disappointed. They say her time in jail while waiting for her trial has taken its toll.

Lisa Darden: I hear her on the phone. I hear her sobbing.

Kouri Richins in court
Kouri Richins appears in court for her bail hearing.

AP Newsroom

In September 2023, Richins’ family says, she had a medical emergency in custody while taking prescription medication and needed to be rushed to the hospital.

Natalie Morales: What did she say happened to her?

Lisa Darden: That they gave her the wrong medicine… and it caused a seizure.

Richins made a full recovery. But while she was away, jail officials say they found a handwritten letter in her cell that was never sent. The document, later filed in the court record, has become known for the words scrawled at the top of the page: “Walk the Dog.” Prosecutors say it’s from Richins to her mother.

Lisa Darden: I take care of her 16-year-old dog.

Natalie Morales: Mm-hmm.

Lisa Darden: And her thing is, be sure you walk Har. … She’s so worried about this dog.

Kouro Richins letter
The “Walk the Dog” letter found in Kouri Richins’ jail cell.

Summit County Court

In November 2023, prosecutors filed this motion asking the court for a no contact order to deny Richins access to her mother and brother. In the motion, they say the letter “is evidence of witness tampering.” They say Richins gives her mother instructions on what her brother, Ronney, should say in court.

 “The letter instructs Lisa Darden to induce the Defendant’s brother, Ronald Darden … to testify falsely,” the motion states.

Greg Skordas: To me, this letter is an attempt to get a witness to testify to something that isn’t true by spoon feeding… the witness the testimony that he’s supposed to give.

In the letter, Richins writes that her defense will need to establish that Eric bought drugs while traveling abroad:

“We need some kind of connection … Here is what I’m thinking but you have to talk to Ronney. He would probably have to testify to this.”

Natalie Morales: In the letter, it appears that she’s laying out a little bit of her defense … for example …  your name is brought up. Eric told Ronney he gets pain pills and fentanyl from Mexico.

Natalie Morales : … almost like she is laying out — a case —

Ronney Darden: Mm-hmm.

Natalie Morales: — saying tell Ronney.

Richins goes on to write:

“Ronney should have texts from Eric talking about getting high as well … reword this however he needs to, to make the point, just include it all. The connection has to be made with Mexico and drugs.” 

Natalie Morales: Is she giving you instruction in this letter

Lisa Darden: I don’t know. I don’t know one way or another.

Ronney Darden: Um, most of that, unfortunately, I can’t speak about.

Lisa Darden: The things that are in the letter are true things and everybody who’s — who’s in her circle already knew this.

But Kouri has a different explanation. She says the letter is fiction. In separate phone calls from jail – that were recorded and later entered into the court record  – she told her mother and Ronney that the letter was part of a book she’s been writing and that it’s private.

The judge denied the motion for no contact, saying the state had failed to prove witness tampering.

Skye Lazaro: It isn’t witness tampering, ’cause it didn’t go anywhere and it was never communicated to anyone.

As the families wait for the trial, they say their focus is on Eric and Kouri’s three sons.

Greg Skordas: The family is concerned about the boys.

Lisa Darden: That’s the main focus. The boys. That’s who’s important here right now.

Both families say they hope to gain custody. The boys are currently living with a member of Eric’s family. Lisa says they’re only allowed to speak to their mother twice a week on a video call.

Lisa Darden: It’s just heart-wrenching as to what they’re going through.

Lisa, Ronney and DJ have been denied private visits with the kids, but Lisa says she does what she can to support them, and attends all their sports practices.

Lisa Darden: And the reason I can do that, it’s a public place. … I can’t be stopped from going there. I still get to see them. I still get a hug and kiss, and that keeps me going.

Besides the criminal case, which could carry a sentence of 25 years to life, there are multiple ongoing civil cases regarding the fate of Eric’s estate. Both sides believe the other is after the money.

Natalie Morales: Both families are concerned about the boys.

Greg Skordas: You could say that. You could say that. I wouldn’t. … we believe that the defendant’s family’s concerned about the money that they can get.

Lisa Darden: Whoever ends up with the boys ends up with the money. … That’s all they want. It’s not right.

Until that’s resolved, both families are waiting for the trial to start, and are hoping for a verdict that delivers their version of justice.

Natalie Morales: What is the family doing to stay strong now?

Greg Skordas: You know, the family has the family, they have each other … they feel like the state has put together a good case and … they’re going to stay united and — and support each other no matter what happens in this case.

Ronney Darden: She’s innocent. She’s been thrown in jail over something that she hasn’t committed.

Natalie Morales: Are you both confident that Kouri will be found not guilty, Lisa?

Lisa Darden: I am, a hundred percent.

DJ: A hundred percent, she’ll be out.

Kouri Richins is expected to go on trial in 2025.

Produced by Betsy Shuller. Ryan Smith and Elena DiFiore are the development producers. Emma Steele is the field producer. Marcus Balsam Michael Vele and Phil Tangel are the editors. Anthony Batson is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.

By 111 Tech

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