New Details Emerge About the Alleged Search History of the Utah Mother Charged With Her Husband’s Murder

Wire Service
By Wire Service
June 12, 2023US News
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New Details Emerge About the Alleged Search History of the Utah Mother Charged With Her Husband’s Murder
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 in Park City, Utah, on June 12, 2023. (Rick Bowmer/Pool via AP Photo)

A judge denied the pretrial release of Kouri Richins—a Utah widow accused of killing her husband before she authored a children’s book about grief—saying she must remain in custody pending the outcome of her trial due to the “substantial evidence” against her.

The judge’s decision to deny bail came as new details about the widow’s alleged search history emerged as part of the case against the 33 year old, who appeared in a Park City, Utah, court on Monday.

“What is a lethal dose of fentanyl” was one of many phone searches that investigators say were made by Kouri Richins. Prosecutors allege she killed Eric Richins, her husband of nine years, with a lethal dose of fentanyl. She faces charges of criminal homicide, aggravated murder and three counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. She has not yet entered a plea.

In court Monday, Judge Richard E. Mrazik ruled Kouri Richins to be held without bail and cited the severity of the punishment of aggravated murder and the “uniquely dangerous nature of fentanyl.”

“The circumstances of this case weigh soundly against granting pre-trial release of any kind,” Mrazik said, adding the array of possible penalties in a murder case “creates a powerful incentive for a defendant to resort to desperate acts that might include harming themselves, harming the members of their family or harming witnesses in the case.”

During the hearing, prosecutors called on several expert witnesses to testify about the investigation into Kouri Richins’ phone records and financial history. The defense did not call any witnesses.

Her attorney, Skye Lazaro, argued there was not adequate evidence proving she had purchased fentanyl and disputed that Kouri Richins’ financial troubles were a motive for her to kill her husband.

Eric Richins’ sister, Amy Richins, also made a victim impact statement at the hearing, saying: “Eric died under horrendous circumstances. I am tormented at the thought of what he endured.”

“I play it out in my head, I go through the terrible sequence of events. I wonder when he realized he was in mortal danger. I wonder what Kouri may have said to him in his last moments,” she continued. “We have watched as Kouri has paraded around portraying herself as a grieving widow and victim while trying to profit from the death of my brother.”

The judge informed Kouri Richins she has the right to file an expedited appeal within 30 days of the ruling. The court will reconvene next on June 22 for a scheduling conference to determine a date for a preliminary hearing.

Kouri Richins
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 in Park City, Utah, on June 12, 2023. (Rick Bowmer/Pool via AP Photo)

Prosecutors Cite ‘Incriminating Evidence’

The documents released Friday also give insight into Kouri Richins’ defense. Her attorneys argue “there is no substantial evidence to support the charges” and say she should be released as she awaits trial.

Among the details released in the documents are internet searches investigators say were found on her phone that were described by prosecutors as “incriminating.”

Some of the articles pulled up through her searches focused on fentanyl, life insurance payments, and others relating to police investigations and how data is collected from electronic devices.

The searches found on Kouri Richins’ iPhone include the phrases: “can cops force you to do a lie detector test?” “Luxury prisons for the rich in America,” “death certificate says pending, will life insurance still pay?” “If someone is poisoned what does it go down on the death certificate as,” and “How to permanently delete information from an iPhone remotely.”

Eric Richins was found dead at the foot of the couple’s bed in March 2022. His wife told investigators at the time that she brought her husband a Moscow Mule cocktail in the bedroom of their Kamas, Utah, home, then left to sleep with their son in his room and returned around 3 a.m. to find her husband lying on the floor cold to the touch.

About a year to the day after her husband died, Kouri Richins published a children’s book, “Are You With Me?” about navigating grief after the loss of a loved one.

Richins House
A house where Kouri Richins and Eric Richins lived, is seen in Francis, Utah, on May 11, 2023. (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)

Alleged Fentanyl Purchases Before Husband’s Death

Prosecutors say Kouri Richins withdrew money from bank accounts without her husband’s knowledge and tried to change a life insurance policy to make herself the sole beneficiary. They also point to various incidents where she allegedly may have attempted to poison him.

Meanwhile, her lawyers argue in filings made Friday that she had the right to withdraw money from their joint accounts, claiming “there is no evidence identifying the computer from which the login was initiated” when the life insurance policy change was attempted, and say she did not attempt to poison him.

Investigators also detailed a series of illicit fentanyl purchases in the months leading up to her husband’s death, according to the documents. His death was six days after the latest alleged pill delivery, investigators say.

An autopsy and toxicology report revealed that Eric Richins, 39, had about five times the lethal dosage of fentanyl in his system, according to a medical examiner.

The defense insists there is no proof their client gave her husband the lethal dose.

“Law enforcement never identified or seized any fentanyl or other illicit drugs from the Family Home,” her defense lawyers wrote in a motion. Also, “the State has provided no evidence that there was fentanyl found in the home. Nor have they provided any evidence that Kouri gave Eric the fentanyl at issue.”

Eric Richins is described as a “partier” and someone who “loved a good time,” in the defense motion. “He would consume alcohol and THC in any form,” the document said.

The defense motion also points to discrepancies in witness testimony, adding that law enforcement told one witness that “if she gave them what they wanted, it would constitute her ‘get out of jail free card,’” the document says.

Allegations of Forged Documents

Potentially previewing what may be presented in trial, another filing in the case includes allegations that some of Eric Richins’ financial documents may have been forged.

The professional opinion of Matt Throckmorton—a forensic document examiner who looked at three specific documents relating to durable power of attorney and life insurance—is included in the filings.

After comparing those documents with dozens of other documents Eric Richins authored, Throckmorton indicated that signatures on the three items in question appear to have been forged.

“The forgeries in this case are ‘simulated forgeries.’ That is when someone tries to copy, draw, or duplicate another person’s characteristics and habits and tries to create a fraudulent signature or set of initials with enough similarities they might get passed off as genuine,” Throckmorton explained.

“Eric made and requested several unusual to highly unusual choices and provisions to his estate plan,” said attorney Kristal Bowman-Carter, who counseled him on estate planning, according to the documents.

Those unusual requests included that his wife not be designated as his health care agent should one be needed and that his wife and children be provided for, but with the caveat that she should be unable to control the financials. Eric Richins chose his father and sister to be trustees on his family’s behalf, according to the documents.

He sought 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,” Bowman-Carter said.

In a phone conversation the day after Eric Richins’ death, Bowman-Carter explained the trust to his wife. She said Kouri Richins “became extremely upset. Her behavior [led] me to believe she was learning this for the first time.”

In an email included in the filings, Kouri Richins wrote to police clarifying information about her previous testimony, including a reference to an affair her husband previously had. “Eric’s affair was the same year I ‘moved out,’ the trust was created as well as him looking into a divorce,” she wrote. “Eric and I figured things out like most couples do,” she added.

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