Children’s author Kouri Richins hit with new charges alleging earlier attempt to kill her husband

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah woman who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband in 2022, then published a children’s book about grief, now faces another attempted murder charge for allegedly drugging him weeks earlier on Valentine’s Day.

Kouri Richins, 33, is accused of killing her husband with a lethal dose of fentanyl at their home in a small mountain town near Park City in March 2022. New charging documents filed Monday by Summit County prosecutors allege that was not her first attempt on his life.

They detail the perilous months preceding Eric Richins’ death, painting a picture of a paranoid man walking on eggshells around his wife as she made secret financial arrangements and bought illicit drugs that were later found in his system.

Prosecutors have said previously that Kouri Richins, who is being held without bail, may have tried to poison her husband the month before his death, but they did not file the additional charges until this week.

The chilling case of a once-beloved author accused of profiting off her own violent crime has captivated true-crime enthusiasts in the year since she was arrested for her husband’s murder. She had self-published “Are You With Me?” — an illustrated storybook about a father with angel wings watching over his young son after passing away.

Once lauded as a heartwarming must-read for any child who has lost a loved one, the book has since become a powerful tool for prosecutors arguing that Kouri Richins carried out a calculated murder plot and attempted cover-up.

The mother of three repeatedly called her husband’s death unexpected while promoting her book and was commended by many for helping her sons and other young children process the death of a parent.

Her attorney, Skye Lazaro, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new charges. Lazaro has argued in early hearings that the evidence against her client was dubious and circumstantial.

One bite of his favorite sandwich — left with a note in the front seat of his truck on Valentine’s Day — made Eric Richins, 39, break out in hives and black out, prosecutors allege in the new documents.

His wife had bought the sandwich from a local diner in the city of Kamas the same week she also purchased several dozen fentanyl pills, according to witness statements and deleted text messages that were recovered by police.

The state’s star witness, a housekeeper who claims to have sold her the drugs, told law enforcement that she gave Kouri Richins the pills a couple days before Valentine’s Day. Later that month, Richins allegedly told the housekeeper that the pills she provided were not strong enough and asked her to procure stronger fentanyl, according to the new charging documents.

In witness testimony, two friends of Eric Richins recount phone conversations from the day prosecutors are now saying he was first poisoned by his wife of nine years. After injecting himself with his son’s EpiPen and chugging a bottle of Benadryl, he woke from deep sleep and and told a friend, “I think my wife tried to poison me.”

His friends say they noticed fear in his voice as Richins, who had no known allergies, told them that he felt like he was going to die and that his wife might be to blame. Opioids, including fentanyl, can cause severe allergic reactions, including hives.

A month later, Kouri Richins called 911 in the middle of the night to report that she had found her husband “cold to the touch” at the foot of their bed, according to the police report. He was pronounced dead, and a medical examiner later found five times the lethal dosage of fentanyl in his system.

“One or two pills might be accidental. Twenty — or five times the lethal dose — is not accidental. That is someone who wants Eric dead,” Summit County Chief Prosecutor Patricia Cassell said.

She alleges that Richins slipped the synthetic opioid into a Moscow mule cocktail she made for her husband amid marital disputes and fights over a multimillion-dollar mansion she purchased as an investment.

Years before her husband’s death, Kouri Richins opened numerous life insurance policies on Eric Richins without his knowledge, with benefits totaling nearly $2 million, prosecutors allege.

Kouri Richins was also charged Monday with mortgage fraud and insurance fraud for allegedly forging loan applications and fraudulently claiming insurance benefits after his death.

Prosecutors argue she was in financial distress when her husband died and say she mistakenly believed she would inherit his estate under terms of their prenuptial agreement. Newly released documents indicated she had a negative bank account balance, owed lenders more than $1.8 million and was being sued by a creditor.

Charging documents indicate Eric Richins met with a divorce attorney and an estate planner in October 2020, a month after he discovered that his wife made some major financial decisions without his knowledge. The couple’s prenuptial agreement only allowed Kouri Richins to profit off her husband’s successful stone masonry business if he died while they were still married.

Utah law prohibits anyone convicted of murder from profiting financially off their crime.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.