Utah woman accused of killing husband then writing grief book for kids denied bail
Jun 12, 2023, 8:11 AM | Updated: 6:57 pm
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — A Utah mother of three who wrote a children’s book about coping with grief after her husband’s death, and was later accused of fatally poisoning him, will remain in jail for the duration of her trial on murder and drug charges, a judge said Monday.
Kouri Richins knelt her head and cried on Monday as a detective testified about authorities finding her husband dead and “cold to the touch,” and prosecutors argued the evidence against her was strong enough to deny her bail.
Her case became a true-crime sensation last month when charges were filed as a transfixed public pored over “Are You With Me?” — the illustrated storybook about an angel wing-clad father watching over his children after passing away — and scrutinized remarks Richins made promoting the book as a tool to help children grieve.
Monday’s detention hearing offered both prosecutors and Richins’ attorneys a chance to preview their cases and provide contrasting theories of the case. Prosecutors called to the stand a detective, a private investigator and a forensic accountant who painted a picture of Richins as having calculatingly plotted to kill her husband, making financial arrangements and purchasing drugs found in his system after his March 2022 death.
In a victim’s impact statement she read in court, Amy Richins, Eric’s sister, called her sister-in-law “desperate, greedy and extremely manipulative.” She accused her of intentionally poisoning Eric and said it was painful for the family to watch Kouri Richins’ promote her book and herself as an amazing mother.
“How can anyone value human life so cheaply? I cannot comprehend it,” she said.
Richins’ attorneys argued the evidence against her was both dubious and circumstantial, noting that no drugs were found at the family home after the death and suggesting the state’s star witness — the housekeeper who claims to have sold Richins the drugs — had motivation to lie as she sought leniency in the face of state and federal drug charges.
“They provided evidence to her, essentially, until she got it right,” Skye Lazaro, Richins’ attorney, said of police interview with the housekeeper.
While a handcuffed Richins shook her head in defiance, prosecutors questioned the detective about the housekeeper who claims to have sold her fentanyl weeks before it was found in her husband’s system and the family’s “bug out bags” full of emergency provisions and passports they suggested made her a flight risk unsuitable for bail.
She huffed deeply as they questioned the private investigator about the search history on her devices — including for “luxury prison for the rich” and the information disclosed on death certificates.
And with members of both sides of the family sitting in the court gallery behind them, they asked the forensic accountant about Richins’ personal financial struggles and the millions of dollars at stake in her husband’s estate.
“One or two pills might be accident. Twenty — or five times the lethal dose — is not accidental. That is a lot. That is someone who wanted Eric dead,” Summit County Chief Prosecutor Patricia Cassell said.
The detention hearing built off court documents in which prosecutors allege Richins slipped five times the lethal dose of fentanyl into a Moscow mule cocktail she made for her husband, Eric Richins, amid marital disputes and fights over a multimillion-dollar mansion she ultimately purchased as an investment.
In them, they paint a picture of a conniving woman who tried to lethally poison her husband multiple times, including on a vacation to Greece and weeks before his death. Witnesses interviewed as part of the investigaiton allege on Valentine’s Day she laced a sandwich made for him with hydrocodone and repeatedly denied her involvement on the day of his death in March 2022, even telling police, “My husband is active. He doesn’t just die in his sleep. This is insane.”
In court filings, Richins’ attorneys said prosecutors “simply accepted” the narrative from Eric Richins’ family that his wife had poisoned him “and worked backward in an effort to support it” by spending about 14 months investigating and finding no evidence to support their theory. She said the prosecution’s case based on Richins’ financial motives proved she was “bad at math,” not that she was guilty of murder.
“Being bad with money does not make you a murderer,” Lazaro said.
The case has shined a spotlight on the communities on backside of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains near Park City, one of the American West’s preeminent destinations for skiing, hiking and outdoor recreation. The couple and their three sons lived in a new development in the town of Francis, roughly 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Salt Lake City. They argued over whether to purchase an unfinished, 20,000-square-foot (1,860-square-meter) mansion in nearby Midway Utah, according to court filings.
If the case goes to trial, it will likely revolve around financial and marital disputes as possible motives. In addition to arguing over real estate, prosecutors also say Kouri Richins made major changes to the family’s estate plans before her husband’s death, taking out life insurance policies on him with benefits totaling nearly $2 million.