Jailhouse letter adds wrinkle in case of mom accused of killing husband, then writing kids’ book

Sep 22, 2023, 3:07 PM

Kouri Richins, left, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband, Eric ...

Kouri Richins, left, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband, Eric Richins, then wrote a children's book about grieving, listens as her attorney Skye Lazaro speaks during a status hearing Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Jailhouse writings by a Utah mother accused of killing her husband, then writing a children’s book about death, have led prosecutors to accuse her of trying to tamper with witnesses, an allegation that her attorneys say is baseless.

A relative of Kouri Richins meanwhile went public in an interview Friday to assert her innocence — a development foretold by Richins’ writings filed in court days earlier. In that letter, which was found in a textbook in her jail cell, Kouri Richins wrote that her attorney, Skye Lazaro, would arrange for “my girls” to do an interview with “Good Morning America.”

“We know Kouri is innocent. And all of that is going to come out in court. And I think that’s going to shock people,” said her brother, identified only as “DJ” in the “Good Morning America” interview.

Lazaro did not return phone and email messages Friday seeking clarification on whether “DJ” is the same brother who Richins referred to as “Ronney” in the letter.

“When I got the news that Eric died, I broke down into tears. He was a good guy. I mean, he lived life to the extreme and eventually it got him,” the brother said in the televised interview.

Prosecutors say Kouri Richins, 33, poisoned Eric Richins, 39, by slipping five times the lethal dose of fentanyl into a Moscow mule cocktail she made for him last year.

After her husband’s death, the mother of three self-published a children’s book titled “Are You With Me?” about a deceased father wearing angel wings who watched over his sons. She promoted the book on TV and radio, describing the book as a way to help children grieve the loss of a loved one.

Richins’ attorneys point out that no drugs were found at the family home after her husband’s death. They’ve also suggested that a witness, a housekeeper who says she sold Kouri Richins the drugs, had motivation to lie as she sought leniency in the face of state and federal drug charges.

Prosecutors on Sept. 15 filed a six-page, handwritten document they say Kouri Richins wrote and that a sheriff’s deputy found in her cell in a prep book for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), according to court documents.

In the document, on which “Walk The Dog!!” is written in large letters at the top of the first page, Richins suggests a scenario in which “Ronney” would have talked with her husband about his “Mexico trips” to get “pain pills & fentanyl.”

“Reword this however he needs to, to make the point. Just include it all,” reads the document. Apparently addressed to Richins’ mother, the document closes by calling her “the best mom in the whole world!”

Prosecutors allege the document outlines potential witness tampering. Richins’ attorneys countered that those are “unsupported conclusions.”

Prosecutors have decided not to seek the death penalty against Richins after conferring with the victim’s father and two sisters.

A judge earlier this year ordered Richins to remain in jail pending trial.

Prosecutors say Richins planned at length to kill her husband, making financial arrangements and purchasing drugs found in his system after his March 2022 death.

Richins made major changes to the family’s estate plans and took out life insurance policies on him with benefits totaling nearly $2 million, prosecutors allege. Her attorneys counter that the prosecution’s case based on financial motives proved she was “bad at math,” not guilty of murder.

Richins, meanwhile, is facing a lawsuit seeking over $13 million in damages for alleged financial wrongdoing before and after his death.

The lawsuit filed in state court by Katie Richins, the sister of Eric Richins, accuses Kouri Richins of taking money from her husband’s accounts, diverting money intended to pay his taxes and obtaining a fraudulent loan, among other things, before his death.

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Jailhouse letter adds wrinkle in case of mom accused of killing husband, then writing kids’ book