Utah author and murder suspect Kouri Richins denied bail, poses ‘substantial danger,’ judge rules

“I never knew evil like this existed,” Amy Richins, sister of Eric Richins, said of her sister-in-law.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) 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.

Park City • A Utah author accused of fatally drugging her husband with fentanyl last year was denied bail Monday after a judge ruled that she poses a “substantial danger” to herself, family members and the community.

“The circumstances of this case weigh soundly against granting pretrial release of any kind,” 3rd District Judge Richard Mrazik said Monday as he ordered Kouri Richins held without bail.

Prosecutors had argued in a court filing Friday that Kouri Richins is an “extreme danger” to others.

“Poisoning is a disturbingly calculated murder method and money an ever-present murder motive,” Summit County prosecutors wrote in the Friday filing ahead of the Monday detention hearing.

Eric Richins was found dead at the foot of his bed early March 4, 2022. Kouri Richins is accused of killing him after the two argued over a $2 million real estate deal the night prior, which records state Eric Richins felt would lose them money.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband then wrote a children's book about grieving, returns to the courtroom following a recess during a bail hearing Monday, June 12, 2023, in Park City.

During the Monday hearing, Kouri Richins could be seen shaking her head and touching a tissue to her face as she sat between her two defense attorneys in front of a packed courtroom gallery while Eric Richins’ sister Amy Richins shared a victim impact statement.

”Eric is gone and I am brokenhearted. He was my best friend and protector. … I can never talk to him, never hug him, and never more be a part of his life,” she said, her voice shaking.

The sister also argued that Kouri Richins has kept Eric Richins’ three young sons away from Eric’s family and told them that their father’s family does not love them.

“I never knew evil like this existed,” she said.

Kouri Richins was charged on May 8 with one count of aggravated murder and three counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute in connection with her husband’s death. Prosecutors have pointed to autopsy and toxicology findings, which indicate that Eric Richins died from a fentanyl overdose.

In the days leading up to his death, text messages investigators found on Kouri Richins’ phone indicate that she had sought fentanyl from someone identified as “C.L.” in court documents. Prosecutors described “C.L.” Monday as someone who cleaned the Richins’ family home, as well as homes for Kouri Richins’ house-flipping business.

There is also an ongoing probate case over Eric Richins’ estate, as well as a separate civil dispute over his trust and an ongoing child custody case regarding the couple’s children.

Court documents state that Eric Richins believed his wife had tried to poison him multiple times before his death, citing two instances before his apparent fatal overdose in which he said he ingested something that his wife had given him, causing him to fall ill.

Discussing motive, Summit County prosecutor Patricia Cassell on Monday said that Kouri Richins was in “dire financial straits.” Cassell argued that Kouri Richins viewed killing her husband as a way to get out of debt.

Prosecutors called three witnesses during the Monday hearing, including detective Jeff O’Driscoll with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office; Brooke Karrington, a forensic accounting expert; and Chris Kotrodimos, a digital forensic expert. The defense didn’t call any witnesses.

Defense attorney Skye Lazaro, who is representing Kouri Richins, argued Monday that there is “nothing to show that Kouri did anything to Eric.”

“We’re here because of really a tragic circumstance and I don’t think any of us want to forget that, especially my client,” Lazaro said. “She loved her kids, she loved her husband but she’s also charged now with his murder. ... And so I just don’t necessarily want that to get lost on the court.”

Lazaro on Monday also pushed against prosecutors’ assertion that Kouri Richins had requested and received illicit fentanyl ahead of Eric Richins’ death.

“It could have been accidental,” Lazaro said of his death, adding that “being bad with money does not make you a murderer.”

Outside of the courtroom Monday, after the judge denied Kouri Richins bail, Lazaro declined to comment.

A year after Eric Richins died, Kouri Richins published a children’s book in March meant to help children navigate the loss of a loved one. After she was charged, the book, “Are You with Me?”, was pulled from Amazon’s website.

Kouri Richins remains in custody at the Summit County jail.