Kouri Richins case: Prosecutors suspect witness tampering, citing letter Richins wrote mom in jail

Richins, who wrote a children’s book about dealing with grief, is accused of fatally poisoning her husband.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband, Eric Richins, and then wrote a children's book about grieving, looks on during a court hearing on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, in Park City.

A letter found in Utah author and murder suspect Kouri Richins’ jail cell last week compelled prosecutors to file a motion for a no-contact order Friday to prevent suspected witness tampering, court documents show.

The handwritten, six-page letter was addressed to Richins’ mother, Lisa Darden, but apparently never mailed. Prosecutors say the letter instructed Darden to ask Richins’ brother to say that the defendant’s late husband — the man Kouri Richins is accused of killing — was “getting drugs and pills from Mexico,” and to link those drugs to his death.

“No such link exists,” prosecutors wrote in their motion “Therefore, the Defendant concocts a false narrative for [her brother] to repeat.”

As of Tuesday, 3rd District Court Judge Richard Mrazik had not yet ruled on the motion or the flurry of subsequent motions the letter inspired, according to court records.

The day after prosecutors filed the motion, Richins, 33, told her mom in a Sept. 16 phone call that the letter was an excerpt from a “fictional mystery book” where she was in a Mexican jail, according to a recording of the call cited in court records.

Richins’ defense attorneys filed a motion in response to prosecutors uploading the letter to the online court docket, arguing it violated a gag order previously imposed in the case. They also alleged that jail staff found it in a “potentially illegal search.”

Prosecutors responded in court documents by calling the defense’s motion a “‘fire, aim, ready’ reaction to the Defendant’s misconduct in jail” and asserted the defense’s motion contained factual and legal errors, “rendering it unpersuasive at best.”

Prosecutors also say that Richins mentioned two other letters to her mom in phone calls on Sept. 13 and 14.

In the first call, she read aloud part of a letter that another inmate wrote Richins. In the Sept. 14 call — this time over on video — Richins held up a multi-page letter so her mother could read or photograph it. She didn’t read it aloud.

Jail staffers found and confiscated the third letter in her jail cell later that day. The others were not found, and prosecutors said they were likely “destroyed or flushed.”

A delayed murder charge

Richins has been in jail since May 8 on charges that she procured fentanyl and used it to fatally poison her husband Eric, 39, with five times the lethal dose of the powerful, illicit drug.

Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputies found Eric Richins dead at the foot of his bed at the couple’s Kamas home on March 4, 2022. Kouri Richins was charged in connection more than a year later, after she had written and published a book to help children manage grief, called “Are You with Me?”

Detectives began investigating Kouri Richins after receiving a toxicology report that showed extremely high doses of fentanyl in her husband’s blood stream, and stomach contents that suggested he orally ingested the drug, according to charging documents.

Kouri Richins had told police she’d made Eric a Moscow mule before bed to celebrate her closing on a house for her business.

“The day after Eric’s death, Kouri closed on the home, alone,” a search warrant affidavit stated. “She later invited her friends over for a large party at her home where she was drinking and celebrating.”

A housekeeper also told police that Kouri Richins had solicited drugs from them multiple times, charging documents state, including in the days before Eric Richins died.

Eric Richins’ sister, Katie Richins-Benson, has since sued Kouri, alleging her brother’s widow enacted a “horrific endgame” to steal money from Eric, orchestrate his death and profit from it.

The lawsuit alleges Kouri Richins was in extreme debt prior to Eric Richins’ death and had already stolen money from his bank account, used his credit cards without permission and took out several insurance policies on her husband’s life, which would have provided over $1,500,000 of coverage if he died, the lawsuit stated.

Richins’ attorneys have denied those allegations.

‘Walk The Dog’ letter

Summit County jail staff found the letter prosecutors cited inside Richins’ jail cell, “hidden in a book” titled “10 Actual, Official LSAT Prep tests,” according to a police report.

The letter began with the phrase “Walk The Dog” scrawled in large letters across the heading, with a note adding, “But take vague notes so you remember*”

In the letter, Richins wrote that her attorneys plan to test “gummies” for fentanyl, but added that attorney Skye Lazaro thought “the prosecutor will say I tried to put the fentanyl in the gummies.”

“However, [Lazaro] wants to link Eric getting drugs & pills from Mexico. So we need some kind of connection. Her private investigator is doing some research on the ranch/cartel place Eric would stay at. Here is what i’m thinking,” she wrote.

Richins went on to write that her brother, Ronald Darden, would need to testify to that and wrote a statement for him, sometimes in third-person, to “reword ... however he needs to, to make the point.” She advised her mother to meet up with her brother in-person, because she feared her phone and house were “bugged.”

The narrative Richins wrote down states that one Sunday, Eric Richins and Ronald Darden were watching football when Eric revealed he gets pain pills and fentanyl from Mexico, but told Darden “not to tell” Kouri, because she “would get mad because [Kouri] always said that he just gets high every night and won’t help take care of the kids.”

Her letter continued: “Eric never wanted anyone to know he had an issue ecspecially (sic) get caught, he always wanted Kouri to go down for him,” adding that he would put drugs in her bag when they traveled “right before they boarded. That way if they were caught, Kouri got in trouble not him.”

“The connection has to be made with Mexico and drugs,” Richins wrote. “[Ronald Darden] will have the messages to prove Eric confided in him about getting high. It can be short and to the point, but it has to be done.”

After that, Richins talks briefly about a home equity loan, getting back at someone named “Katie” by sending photos of her children to “different media companies,” and coaching people she knew for an upcoming appearance on Good Morning America.

“Have [one of the people] talk about how [Eric Richins’ sisters] have always been jealous of me because anything they could do, Kouri could do better,” she wrote. “Being a mom, college, stay at home wife until she built a million dollar company. A nice house. Car. Everything she had, they wanted.”

“This comes down to jealousy, money and Eric’s partying that they don’t want to acknowledge,” Richins’ letter continued, “and sadly an accidental overdose.”

She concluded the letter by asking her mom to smuggle Crest Whitestrips into the jail via her lawyer, Lazaro.

“I asked [Lazaro] to sneak me in some white strips because my teeth are getting yellow because all we do is drink coffee in the Mexican prison,” she told her mother in the Sept. 16 phone call, the same call in which she alleged the letter was part of a book she was writing.

Richins next court date is a scheduled for Nov. 3 in Park City.