Detectives: Kouri Richins’ mother had a romantic partner who also died of ‘suspicious overdose’ in 2006

Mar 18, 2024, 5:01 PM

Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband then wrote a...

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 Monday, June 12, 2023, in Park City, Utah. A judge ruled to keep her in custody for the duration of her trial. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

SALT LAKE CITY — A newly unsealed search warrant revealed that Utah author, Kouri Richins — currently on trial for the murder of her husband — could have been assisted with the murder by her mother, Lisa Darden. The warrant states that Darden was investigated for another overdose death in 2006.

Richin’s husband, Eric Richins, 39, died in 2022 in his home of an illicit fentanyl overdose. Kouri Richins, 33, was arrested just over a year later in 2023, and accused of purchasing the drugs that killed her husband and using them to induce his death. In the year before her arrest, Kouri Richins wrote and published a children’s book with her three children on the topic of grief and loss after her husband’s death.

It was initially reported that Kouri Richins’ home, two cell phones, and a multitude of other electronics were searched after her arrest. The newly unsealed warrant reveals a search of her mother’s phone around the same time.

Lisa Darden’s romantic partner

According to the warrant, detectives discovered in 2023 that Lisa Darden had been involved romantically with a partner who also died unexpectedly of a drug overdose.

“It was discovered that in 2006, Richins’ mother, Lisa Darden was living with an adult female with whom she was having a romantic relationship,” the warrant states.

Darden’s romantic partner died in April of 2006 from an overdose of oxycodone, an autopsy report showed.

Detectives on Kouri Richins’ case discovered that Lisa Darden had been named the beneficiary of her partner’s estate “a short time before her death,” the warrant states. “(Her partner) did have current prescriptions for oxycodone and reportedly struggled with abusing her meds.”

The detective who submitted the warrant,  Jeff O’Driscoll, said an accidental overdose was unlikely.

“She … was not in a state of recovery from addiction at the time of her death,” O’Driscoll wrote. “Based on my training and experience, this would likely rule out the possibility of an accidental overdose.”

Darden was potentially involved in both cases

O’Driscoll said after reviewing Kouri Richins’ phone, detectives knew that she and her mother communicated almost daily. Conversations between the two of them showed “disdain” for Eric Richins on Darden’s part.

“Based on Lisa Darden’s proximity to her partner’s suspicious overdose death, and her relationship with Kouri, it is possible she was involved in planning and orchestrating Eric’s death,” the warrant concludes. 

It has not yet been revealed in court what the warrant may have gathered from Lisa Darden’s phone records, or if it provided any supporting evidence.

Kouri Richins’ attorney, Skye Lazaro, responded to KSL TV’s request for comment with the following statement:

Summit County is well aware that opioid addiction and fentanyl overdose is a rampant problem throughout the country. According to the CDC, 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Not only was Summit County the first Utah county to file a lawsuit against “Big Pharma” Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors, in 2022 Park City Police, the Summit County Sheriff, Summit County Attorney and Park City School District issued a joint statement to its citizens warning “they’re finding an increasing amount of fentanyl, a drug fueling a surge in accidental overdoses nationwide.”  The fact that Ms. Darden’s significant other was one of the millions that suffered from, and ultimately succumbed to, opioid addiction is hardly “suspicious.” It is tragic, and unfortunately, quite common.

The fact that Ms. Darden was the beneficiary of her romantic partner’s life insurance policy is also not unique. It only demonstrates that her circumstances are no different than most families in America. To suggest otherwise is nothing more than a baseless conspiracy theory.

Were both women financially motivated?

Kouri Richins is charged with aggravated murder and three counts of drug possession with intent to distribute. She was later charged with witness tampering after a handwritten note to her mother was found in her cell.

Richins also faces a domestic violence assault charge after she allegedly punched her sister-in-law in 2022. According to a report by KPCW, Kouri Richins hired a locksmith after her husband’s death to get into his safe. Court documents detailed the safe held more than $100,000.

Eric Richins’ sister found out and informed Kouri Richins that she didn’t have the right to the funds in the safe because her husband had removed Kouri Richins’ name from his $500,000 life insurance policy and was no longer named in his will. Eric Richins’ instead replaced Kouri Richins with his sister as beneficiary, unbeknownst to his wife.

KPCW’s report also detailed four separate life insurance policies that Kouri Richins opened from 2015 to 2017 that totaled $1.9 million. She also made herself the sole beneficiary of another life insurance policy that Eric Richins held jointly with his business partner. The company alerted Eric Richins to the change though, and he switched it back to his business partner afterwards.

Court documents stated that Kouri Richins became enraged when she learned this and punched her sister-in-law in the face. She was charged later with assault and pleaded in abeyance in February of 2023.

The latest court update to Kouri Richins’ murder and drug charges detailed the autopsy report that found a drug prescribed to Kouri Richins in her husband’s body at the time of his death.

The next hearing Kouri Richins is expected to participate in will be held virtually on Tuesday, in relation to the domestic violence assault charge. No other court dates are currently set in relation to the murder and drug charges.

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Detectives: Kouri Richins’ mother had a romantic partner who also died of ‘suspicious overdose’ in 2006