Did Utah mom Kouri Richins poison her husband, then write a children's book on coping with grief?

Friends and family expressed shock and disbelief when https://www.cbsnews.com/news/kouri-richins-accused-fatal-poisoning-husband-profit-from-death-lawsuit/Kouri Richins was arrested in connection with the death of her husband, Eric, at their home in Kamas, Utah, in 2022. 

“I was shocked,” said her mother Lisa Darden, remembering when she heard the news. “She can’t be arrested.” Darden believed that Kouri and Eric had a great relationship, though there were sometimes bumps in the road. Ronney Darden, Kouri’s brother, said that at the time of Eric’s death, “They were in probably one of the best spots I’ve ever seen them, um, in quite some time.” A year after Eric’s death, Kouri wrote a children’s book to help her sons cope with the loss of their father, and the family, Lisa says, was on their way to healing. Just two months later Kouri was charged in his death.

What is the real story of Eric and Kouri’s marriage – a marriage that would end in tragedy? It begins at their wedding, in June of 2013. 

June 15, 2013: A wedding and a pre-nup

Eric and Kouri Richins
Eric and Kouri Richins

Skye Lazaro


On June 15, 2013, Kouri Darden, 23, and Eric Richins, 31, got married in the backyard at their home in Utah. They already had one son, and their family would soon grow.

According to court documents, the couple signed a prenuptial agreement that day, establishing that each party did not have rights to one another’s “present or future income, property, or assets” — except if Eric died while the two were lawfully married. At that point, his stone masonry business, C&E Masonry, would transfer to Kouri. 

April 2019: Kouri Richins starts her real estate business

Kouri Richins
Kouri Richins

Skye Lazaro


Kouri started her real estate business, K Richins Realty LLC, in 2019. She began to buy homes, fix them up, and sell them for profit. As the business picked up, according to Kouri’s family, Kouri would typically be working on three houses at a time.

“That was what she loved doing,” said Kouri’s friend and marketing director Greg Hall. “Kouri was very successful at what she did.”

The spokesman for Eric’s family, Greg Skordas, told “48 Hours” something different. He says Kouri was not so savvy, and court documents allege that by 2022, Kouri’s business was drowning in millions of dollars of debt.

March-June 2019: “Stolen” funds

Prosecutors allege that in 2019, Kouri began stealing from Eric’s accounts and “misappropriating monies distributed from Eric Richins’ business.” Court documents claim that “without Eric Richins’ knowledge or permission,” Kouri used a “fraudulent” Power of Attorney to execute a $250,000 credit deed of trust on the family home, then withdrew the entire $250,000 from this home equity line of credit.

Kouri’s family insists that Kouri did not steal from Eric, and that Eric was always aware of the family’s finances. “Eric and Kouri sat down every month and did the bills together,” says Lisa Darden. “At all times, Eric knew what was going in and what was coming out.”

November 2020: The Eric Richins Living Trust

Eric Richins
Eric Richins

Skye Lazaro


Prosecutors say that in late 2020 Eric discovered Kouri had misappropriated his funds. Kouri’s family disputes this claim. However, in November, Eric did meet with an estate planning lawyer, Kristal Bowman-Carter, to make a new estate plan. He created the Eric Richins Living Trust and named his sister, Katie Richins-Benson, trustee. In the case of his death, Katie – not Kouri – would manage his estate.

Bowman-Carter said in a statement filed with the court: “[Eric] told me he had two primary goals. His first goal was to protect him in the short-term from fairly recently discovered and ongoing abuse and misuse of his finances by his wife Kouri Richins. His second was to protect the three young sons he and Kouri had together in the long-term by ensuring that Kouri would never be in a position to manage his property after his death.”

Kouri was not informed about the trust and wouldn’t find out about it until after Eric died.

Early 2022: Kouri Richins allegedly asks for drugs

Prosecutors allege that in early 2022 Kouri Richins asked her housekeeper, referred to in court filings as “C.L.,” to procure fentanyl for her. Court documents say C.L. told investigators she sold fentanyl to Kouri. Court documents also say that phone records show that texts between Kouri and C.L. from January 2 until shortly after Eric’s death were deleted off of Kouri’s phone.

Defense attorney Skye Lazaro says the evidence isn’t strong enough to prove Kouri ever bought drugs. She says there are no witnesses to confirm what C.L. says, and that C.L., who is a convicted felon, is not credible.

When C.L. spoke to investigators, she “was on probation at the time,” Lazaro said. “I think anytime you have an informant-type situation with promises made… by, you know, law enforcement or prosecutors, it can call into question the veracity of their statements.”

Feb. 14, 2022: A Valentine’s Day poisoning?

Kouri and Eric Richins
Kouri and Eric Richins

Skye Lazaro


Prosecutors say that on Valentine’s Day, 2022, shortly after Kouri gave Eric a sandwich, he broke out in hives and had difficulty breathing. He used his son’s EpiPen and slept. According to the charging document, Eric believed that he had been poisoned, and told a friend that he thought his wife was trying to poison him.

Kouri’s defense denies this version of events in court documents. Documents say Kouri purchased lunch for herself and Eric that day, and that he was simply not feeling well after lunch and went to take a nap. Kouri’s lawyer, Skye Lazaro, says that aside from an assertion from the family, there is no evidence to corroborate the claim that Eric was poisoned.

Late February 2022: “Some of the Michael Jackson stuff”

Court documents describe a second alleged transaction between Kouri and her housekeeper, C.L., that took place in late February 2022. According to those documents, C.L. told investigators that Kouri said that the fentanyl pills C.L. previously provided were not strong enough and that Kouri asked for “some of the Michael Jackson stuff.”

Documents say C.L. later conceded that Kouri may have made the Michael Jackson reference during the first request for fentanyl. Skye Lazaro insists that Kouri never made any such reference and never bought drugs from C.L., and that C.L’s stories are inconsistent and unreliable.

“48 Hours” reached out to C.L. for comment, but she did not respond.  

March 4, 2022: A tragic death

Eric Richins
Eric Richins

Skye Lazaro


Summit County Sheriff’s deputies and EMS staff arrived at the Richins’ home in Kamas, Utah, at 3:31 a.m. on March 4. They found Eric Richins deceased. According to court documents, the responding paramedic thought “he’d been dead a while.”

Documents say that at the scene, Kouri told investigators she’d made her husband a cocktail before bed then went to sleep with her son who was having nightmares. She said that when she returned to Eric’s side at around 3 a.m., he was unresponsive, and she called 911.

Eric’s family’s spokesperson, Greg Skordas, describes Eric’s death as “a huge loss … he was this beautiful son and – and brother, and father, and cared about people … cared about everything he was doing.”

March 5, 2022: The $3.9 million mansion

richins-mansion.jpg
The Heber City, Utah, mansion.

CBS News


The day after Eric’s death, Kouri Richins closed on a big purchase she’d made for her house flipping business: this $3.9 million, 20,000 square foot mansion in Heber City, Utah. Kouri’s family says Eric was on board with the plan to fix up the house and sell it for a large profit.

“[Kouri] and Eric sat down with an accountant one time,”  Lisa Darden told “48 Hours,” “and he said, if you can get it done and stay under budget, you could walk away with $12 million.”

But according to a search warrant, Eric’s family told investigators that Eric was not happy with the purchase, and that he Kouri were arguing about the property before his death.

“He was on board with supporting his wife,” family spokesman Greg Skordas said. “That doesn’t mean he agreed with it.”

March 6, 2022: A fight breaks out

Richins family home
The Richins family home.

CBS News


Two days after Eric’s death, court documents allege, Kouri Richins and Eric’s sister Amy fought at the family home. Prosecutors say Kouri called a locksmith to attempt to access a safe in the house, and Amy objected. Amy allegedly told Kouri that Eric’s property, under the trust, did not belong to Kouri, and Kouri “became enraged” and “punched Amy in the face and neck.”

“I was standing in the middle of them,” says Kouri’s brother DJ. “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.”

Kouri was charged with assault and later pleaded no contest. 

April 2022: Five times the lethal dose

 According to court documents, following an autopsy in April 2022 it was determined that Eric had died from an overdose of fentanyl. The medical examiner said that Eric had 15 ng/mL of fentanyl in his blood — and that in other deaths caused by fentanyl, concentrations have been reported as low as 3 ng/mL. This data indicates that the amount of fentanyl Eric ingested was five times the lethal dose.

March 7, 2023: A book to cope with grief

Kouri’s family says that after Eric’s death, Kouri and her sons were grieving. “The boys … lashed out a little bit because they couldn’t quite understand what was going on,” says Kouri’s brother Ronney. “They needed some help and Kouri needed some help.”

richins-book2.jpg
“Are You With Me?” by Kouri Richins 

Amazon


To help her sons cope with their grief, according to Kouri and her family, Kouri wrote a children’s book, “Are You With Me?” On March 7, 2023, she self-published the book, which she sold on Amazon. It follows the story of a child who lost his father but is reminded his presence still exists all around. Kouri’s family says it helped her and the boys, and they were on their way to healing.

In April 2022 Kouri promoted the book on a local TV show called “Good Things Utah.” Just a month later, she was arrested for Eric’s murder.

May 8, 2023: Kouri Richins arrested

On May 8, 2023, Kouri Richins was arrested and charged in her husband’s murder. Prosecutors allege that when Kouri made Eric that drink just hours before he died, she deliberately poisoned him with fentanyl she purchased from C.L. She was charged with one first degree felony count of criminal homicide, aggravated murder and three second-degree felony counts involving possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

Kouri maintains her innocence. Her family says they suspect that Eric accidentally took something – perhaps a THC gummy, which they say he was known to take – that he didn’t know was laced with fentanyl, and that his death was a tragic accident.

“[The State is] gonna have to prove that she did this, that she got the drugs and that she somehow gave them to him,” Kouri’s attorney Skye Lazaro told “48 Hours.” “And unless they can connect those dots, they’re gonna have a hard time proving murder in this case.”

June 12, 2023: Kouri  Richins fights for bail

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

AP Newsroom


On June 12, 2023, Kouri Richins appeared publicly in court for the first time to argue for release on bail. Her attorney was hopeful: in order to deny Kouri bail, the state would have to prove substantial evidence existed in the case against her. In the four-hour hearing, prosecutors presented evidence and called several witnesses, including Chris Kotodrimos, a cellphone analyst, and Detective Jeff O’Driscoll, the lead detective on the case.

One of the things analyst Kotodrimos talked about was a report of the Google searches Kouri made in the year after Eric died. The searches include “can FBI find deleted messages” and “what is a lethal dose of fentanyl?” In her cross examination, defense attorney Skye Lazaro pointed out the timing of the Google searches, emphasizing that they were made after Eric Richins’ death. She says they were innocent questions Kouri had about what she was being accused of in this case.

When Detective O’Driscoll took the stand, he told the court about interviews he conducted with C.L. He said C,L. told him the dates and times that Kouri allegedly purchased fentanyl from her. Lazaro maintains that C.L. – who is a convicted felon – is not a credible witness, and that the state does not have the evidence to prove that C.L. ever sold Kouri anything. In her cross-examination, she asked the detective if there were any texts from Kouri or witnesses to corroborate C.L.’s story, and he replied that investigators had not found any.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge denied Kouri Richins’ request for bail. She will remain in custody until her trial.

Nov. 3, 2023: Accusations of witness tampering

This unsent letter, found in Kouri’s jail cell, has become known as the “walk the dog” letter for the words scrawled at the top of the page. Its contents have become a point of controversy in the case. Prosecutors argued it’s evidence that Kouri was involved in witness tampering.

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

Summit County Court


In the letter, prosecutors alleged, Kouri writes to her mother and gives her instructions on what her brother, Ronney, should say in court. She writes that her defense case needs “some kind of connection” between Eric and drugs. She says, “Here is what I’m thinking but you have to talk to Ronney. He would probably have to testify to this, but it’s super short not a lot to it.” She appears to tell her mother to tell Ronney to recount a story where “Eric told Ronney he gets pain pills & fentanyl from Mexico”.

On Nov. 3, 2023, prosecutors brought to court a motion for no contact, asking the judge to restrict Kouri’s communication with her mother and brother Ronney.

Kouri’s attorney, Skye Lazaro, argued that the letter wasn’t witness tampering. “It isn’t witness tampering,” she told “48 Hours,” “… ’cause it didn’t go anywhere and it was never communicated to anyone.” She says the document was private and should never have been released. The judge denied the state’s motion, saying prosecutors had failed to prove witness tampering. 

TBD: Kouri Richins trial

Kouri Richins
Kouri Richins

Skye Lazaro


A date has not yet been set for Kouri Richins’ trial in the death of her husband, but her attorney expects the case will go before a jury in 2025. Until then, all both families can do is wait and hope for a verdict that delivers their version of justice. 

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