Utah author charged with murdering husband is being sued by husband’s estate

Jun 28, 2023, 12:00 PM

Kouri Richins talks with her lawyers in court....

Kouri Richins, center, appears in court in Park City on June 12. Prosecutors say even if a judge believes Richins’ jail cell letter was from a book she is writing and not a script for false testimony, they had a responsibility to file it in court. (Mark Wetzel, KSL-TV)

(Mark Wetzel, KSL-TV)

PARK CITY, Utah — The estate of a man who police say was killed by his wife who gave him a fatal dose of fentanyl has filed a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit against the woman claiming she caused his death and stole large amounts of money from him.

Katie Richins-Benson, who is representing the estate of Eric Richins, on Tuesday filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kouri Richins in Summit County’s 3rd District Court.

The lawsuit seeks more than $13 million in damages as well as “all revenues generated from the sales” of a children’s book Richins published a year after her husband’s death to help families grieving the loss of a loved one. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction barring any future sales of the book.

Kouri Darden Richins, 33, is charged with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and three counts of drug possession with intent to distribute, a second-degree felony, in the March 4, 2022, death of her 39-year-old husband. During her most recent court hearing, in which she was ordered to remain in custody pending trial, prosecutors outlined the dire financial situation Kouri Richins is in.

In the 48-page civil suit filed Tuesday, Eric Richins’ estate also reiterates their belief that Kouri Richins began having “serous financial troubles” as early as 2016.

“Kouri began stealing money from Eric to help infuse KRR with money and to otherwise attempt to address her financial troubles,” the lawsuit states. KRR stands for K Richins Realty, LLC, Kouri Richins’ house flipping business of which she is the sole member.

“Upon information and belief, Kouri was taking money from Eric’s bank accounts and running up debts on credit cards in Eric’s name without Eric’s knowledge. By the end of 2021, KRR was approximately $6 million in debt, and KRR’s bank account was overdrawn by approximately $22,000,” according to the lawsuit.

In 2020, Eric Richins discovered that his wife had stolen $200,000 from his bank accounts, charged $30,000 on his credit cards, and fraudulently borrowed $250,000 using a forged power of attorney, the lawsuit states.

It also says Eric Richins was the lone purchaser of his house, and the house was transferred to the Eric Richins Living Trust in 2020.

“Kouri did not know before Eric’s death that he had created the trust or transferred his interest in (his company) to the trust. Based on her subjective understanding of the premarital agreement, Kouri believed that if Eric predeceased her, she stood to receive a highly-lucrative stake in (the company),” the lawsuit alleges.

Eric Richins and his business partner also purchased $2 million life insurance policies on each other so that “in the event that one predeceased the other, the surviving partner would use the life insurance proceeds to purchase the deceased partner’s interest in (the company) from the deceased partner’s estate or trust.”

The lawsuit says Kouri Richins attempted to change that policy and obtained several life insurance policies unbeknownst to her husband that provided over $1.5 million of coverage in the event of his death.

The lawsuit also addresses the fentanyl Kouri Richins is accused of purchasing from another woman that was allegedly used to kill her husband. On Feb. 11, 2022, Richins met the known drug dealer at a convenience store in Draper to purchase 15 to 30 fentanyl pills, the lawsuit states.

“Just a few days later — Valentine’s Day 2022 — Kouri made Eric a sandwich and placed it on the seat of his truck alongside a supposed love note. When Eric ate the sandwich, he immediately broke out in hives and had trouble breathing. He later told at least one friend that he thought Kouri had tried to poison him,” according to the lawsuit.

A short time later, Kouri Richins bought a second batch of fentanyl pills from the woman, the lawsuit says. Eric Richins died on March 4, 2022.

After her husband’s death, investigators searched Kouri Richins’ electronic devices and reported finding “numerous incriminating searches” that had been made prior to Eric Richins’ death, including: “Can cops uncover deleted messages iPhone”; “Will life insurance pay if death certificate says pending”; “Luxury prisons for the rich in America”; “If someone is poisoned what does it go down on the death certificate as”; and “What is considered a lethal dose of fentanyl?”

The lawsuit also contends that the children’s book Richins’ wrote after her husband’s death — referred to in the lawsuit as the “unlawful book” — uses Eric Richins’ name, image, identity and likeness without the consent of his estate.

Among the causes of action the lawsuit is seeking damages for, the estate says Kouri Richins: stole from Eric Richins’ bank account; fraudulently charged his credit cards; stole from his tax payments and retirement accounts; misappropriated Eric Richins’ name and likeness in her book causing an invasion of privacy; engaged in a pattern of unlawful activity; and wrongfully caused her husband’s death “by knowingly and intentionally poisoning Eric.”

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Utah author charged with murdering husband is being sued by husband’s estate