Utah mother charged with poisoning husband was more than $2m in debt, new documents reveal

Court papers filed this week also offered new details about previous poisoning attempts

Sheila Flynn
in Denver
Saturday 20 May 2023 17:13 BST
Widow, Kouri Richins, charged in husband's death appeared on TV to promote book on grief

A Utah mother who has been charged with poisoning her husband spent the final day of his life on calls with the Internal Revenue Service and a money lender as she struggled with around $2.5million in debt, according to newly-filed court documents.

Kouri Richins, 33, is charged with murder over the death of her 39-year-old husband Eric Richins, the father of her three boys, in March 2022.

Before her arrest earlier this month, she had been promoting the release of a children’s book she wrote as a grieving widow about dealing with loss.

New documents filed on Thursday in Summit County, where Ms Richins is being held, offered new details about previous poisoning attempts.

The documents reveal that three days after Ms Richins bought fentanyl pills in a hand-to-hand transaction in her driveway, on Valentine’s Day 2022, she “prepared a sandwich for Eric Richins and placed it on the seat of his truck with a love note”.

“Shortly after consuming the sandwich, Eric Richins broke out in hives and had difficulty breathing,” the documents stated.

“Eric found his son’s epipen and administered it to himself and slept. Eric Richins believed that he had been poisoned. Eric Richins told a friend that he thought his wife was trying to poison him.”

The couple had been having financial disagreements, and Mr Richins had removed his wife as a beneficiary from his will and estate, according to documents.

“In September 2020, Eric Richins discovered that the Defendant had obtained and spent $250,000 home equity line of credit on the Kamas home, withdrawn at least $100,000 from his bank accounts, and spent in excess of $30,000 credit cards,” the new documents state.

“The Defendant had also been appropriating distributions made from Eric Richins’ business for the purpose of making federal and state quarterly tax payments and not paying the taxes. The stolen tax payments totaled at least $134,346. Eric Richins confronted the Defendant and she agreed to repay him.”

In October 2020, Mr Richins consulted a divorce lawyer and an estate-planning lawyer, changing his will to form a living trust and placing his estate in control of his sister, Katie Richins-Benson, for the primary benefit of his three children.

He transferred his partnership interest in his stone masonry business to the trust and replaced Ms Richins as the beneficiary of his $500,000 life insurance policy with the trust.

She was unaware of this. Mr Richins also was unaware that his wife had taken out at least four life insurance policies on him totaling nearly $2m, according to the filings.

In late January 2022, Ms Richins took out a new insurance policy on her husband. It was issued the following month, on 4 February. The next week she procured illicit fentanyl, according to the documents, and the sandwich incident followed days later.

Ms Richins reached out again to contacts who helped her obtain illegal drugs in late February, according to documents, claiming that the “fentanyl pills that she previously provided were not strong enough and asked that she procure some stronger fentanyl”.

One contact, according to documents, “initially stated that the Defendant specifically asked for ‘some of the Michael Jackson stuff’ during this request for fentanyl, but subsequently conceded that the Defendant may have made the Michael Jackson reference during her first request for fentanyl”.

Through this contact, Ms Richins arranged to meet another person at a gas station to buy fentanyl on 26 February, 2022 according to the documents.

On 1 March, her “outstanding state and federal tax liability was $189,840,” and she owed “a hard money lender at least $1,847,760”. She also owed her husband “at least $514,346,” the documents stated.

On 3 March, she “had a lengthy telephone call with the IRS and talked to her hard money lender,” the charging documents noted. Hours later, she prepared her husband a Moscow Mule cocktail.

Ms Richins told investigators that her husband drank the cocktail while in bed, and she slept in one of the boys’ bedrooms because the child was having a night terror. When she awoke around 3am, Ms Richins said, she returned to her room and found Eric cold to the touch, prompting her to call 911.

While she told police she’d left her phone in the couple’s room while caring for her child, “the status on her phone shows that it was locked and unlocked multiple times and there was also movement recorded on the phone,” the documents state. “In addition, tolls and phone billing data for Defendant’s phone show that messages were sent and received during that time.”

Mr Richins was pronounced dead on 4 March, 2022.

Almost immediately Ms Richins, a real estate agent, closed on a multi-million-dollar mansion the couple had been arguing about.

Two days after his death, she arranged for a locksmith to drill into her husband’s safe. When his sister and trustee objected, Ms Richins “became enraged and punched [her] in the face and neck,” the documents state.

“Sheriff’s deputies responded and called Eric Richins’ estate planning lawyer from the scene. Here, the Defendant learned for the first time of the existence of the Eric Richins Living Trust.”

Ms Richins was arrested last week and a 19 May detention hearing has been postponed until 12 June.

Between her husband’s death and her arrest, Ms Richins had been fighting with his family and trust regarding his estate and, particularly, the couple’s sprawling home, where they married on 15 June 2013.

Presenting herself as a grieving widow, Ms Richins also authored a children’s book titled Are You With Me? on dealing with loss. She appeared on a local TV show to promote the book weeks before she was taken into custody.

Lawyer Greg Skordas, a Richins family spokesman, told The Independent on Wednesday: “It was right up until the end that she was carrying on as though nothing had happened, and that she was a victim, and she was a martyr and promoting her book.

“And I don’t know to what extent she knew this was coming or suspected it, but we certainly did.”

A lawyer for Kouri Richins has not responded to requests for comment from The Independent.

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