PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — A judge ruled that 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 throughout her trial after her sister-in-law called her “desperate, greedy and extremely manipulative” during a court hearing.
Kouri Richins knelt her head and cried 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 remarks Richins made promoting “Are You With Me?” — the illustrated storybook about an angel wing-clad father watching over his children after passing away.
Monday’s detention hearing offered both prosecutors and Richins’ attorneys a chance to preview their cases and provide contrasting theories of what happened. 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 impact statement she read in court, Amy Richins, Eric’s sister, said it was painful for the family to watch Kouri Richins promote “Are You With Me?” and called her actions “betrayal and terror.”
“Since Eric’s death, we have learned — and unfortunately are continually reminded — that Kouri is desperate, greedy and extremely manipulative,” she said.
“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 — while trying to profit from a book about his death and trying to get life insurance,” she added.
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 interviews 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.
The court documents paint a picture of a conniving woman who tried to lethally poison her husband multiple times, including on a vacation to Greece and on Valentine’s Day weeks before his death. Witnesses interviewed as part of the investigaiton allege in February 2022 she laced a sandwich made for him with hydrocodone. She 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 say prosecutors “simply accepted” the narrative from Eric Richins’ family that his wife had poisoned him “and worked backward in an effort to support it,” spending about 14 months investigating and not finding sufficient 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.