In a true story that sounds straight out of a Stephen King novel, a woman, 33-year-old Kouri Richins, is accused of murdering her husband, Eric Richins, with a fentanyl-laced Moscow Mule cocktail that she served him in the bedroom of their Kamas, Utah home while she slept with their son in the other room. A year after his death, she authored a children’s book about grieving a loved one. She even went on ABC 4’s “Good Things Utah” in April 2023, to talk about the book she wrote to help her children cope with their father’s death, just a month before her arrest.
She’s now suing his estate, alleging she’s owed $3.6 million for the value of their family home, his business interests and other payments she made to maintain the home.
Kouri is currently being held without bail on charges of criminal homicide, aggravated murder and three counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute in relation and appears to have had a financial motive behind the alleged killing.
Trouble in Paradise
While Kouri carried on as a victim until her arrest, her slain husband’s family long suspected her involvement in his death. Prosecutors and family members of Eric paint a picture of a troubled marriage, alleging that Kouri, a realtor, was facing a financial hardship and stealing money from Eric to flip houses. According to prosecutors, Kouri withdrew money from Eric’s bank accounts without his knowledge and attempted to change a life insurance policy to make herself the sole beneficiary. Additionally, a petition by Eric’s family in a separate civil suit alleges that she spent $30,000 on his credit card, fraudulently used his power of attorney to secure a $250,000 loan and repeatedly took checks from his business and cashed them for her own benefit. A forensic document examiner in the criminal case potentially backs up that allegation, finding that some of Eric’s financial documents may have been forged.
Other evidence of trouble for the two included an email in the filings, in which Kouri mentioned Eric’s affair and that he was looking into a divorce.
Signs All Along
It appears that Eric may have been on to Kouri; a search warrant affidavit disclosed that Eric told his family that “if anything happened to him, she was to blame" and that his sisters “told police that during a previous trip to Greece, he became ‘violently ill’ after [Kouri] served him a drink.” (She also allegedly attempted to poison him again on Valentine’s Day, just weeks before his death.) According to Fox News, the warrant also stated that Kouri wanted to purchase and flip a $2 million under construction mansion, while Eric thought the property was too expensive. Kouri allegedly closed a deal on the mansion alone, the day after her husband’s death.
Estate Plan Intentions Made Clear
The criminal case also reveals that Eric made very specific requests regarding his estate plan. According to his estate planner, he requested his wife not be designated as his health care agent should he ever need one and that Kouri and their three children should be provided for on his death but that Kouri shouldn’t be able to control the money. Six months before he died, Eric also changed his will to make his sister his trustee. Eric apparently didn’t discuss these decisions with Kouri, as his estate planner stated Kouri was extremely upset during a phone conversation between the two after Eric’s death, during which she explained the terms of the trust to her.
Who Will Prevail in Estate Suit?
According to the civil suit, a pre-nuptial agreement entered into by Kouri and Eric states that Eric’s business is to “remain the sole property of the husband,” unless he should die while the two are still married, in which case “Husband’s partnership interest in said business shall transfer to the wife.” Also, per the suit, the legal title to the home was in Eric’s name but mortgage payments were made from the couple’s joint account.
While this evidence may lean in Kouri’s favor (though the pre-nup terms could also be used as evidence of a motive to kill her husband), most states have a slayer statute, which prevents killers from profiting from their crime. Utah, where the couple lived, has a slayer statute. Utah Code Section 75-2-803 states that a murderer can’t retain a property interest in their victim’s estate. Therefore, the outcome of the civil suit will hinge on whether Kouri is found guilty of killing Eric, which would disqualify her from inheriting from his estate, treating her as if she had predeceased him.
“Law school criminal law makes much of mens rea (motive) as a critical element of a crime,” said Benny Roshan, chair of Greenberg Glusker's Trust and Probate Litigation Group in Los Angeles, “and in Richins' case, given the developing facts surrounding her husband’s death, we can’t rule out that money may have been a motivating factor in the homicide. Certainly, the fact that Richins’ civil lawsuit makes no mention of the murder charges against her would give rise to that suspicion.”
For what it’s worth, a judge has denied the pretrial release of Kouri, citing the “substantial evidence” against her, which in addition to the aforementioned evidence, included internet searches prior to her husband’s death for “Luxury prisons for the rich in America,” “What is a lethal dose of fentanyl” and “How to permanently delete information from an iPhone remotely.”