Mom Accused of Husband’s Overdose Murder Asked Dealer for ‘the Michael Jackson Stuff’
A Utah mother of three who wrote a children’s book about losing a parent has been charged with her husband’s murder. Kouri Darden Richins was arrested Monday, a little more than a year after her husband, Eric Richins, died of a fentanyl overdose in the home he and Richins shared with their three young sons in Kamas, a small mountain town near Park City. A toxicology report revealed there was five times the lethal dose of fentanyl in his system.
In March, around the one-year anniversary of Eric’s death, Richins, 33, published a children’s book about a boy who’s lost his father called Are You With Me? She gave interviews promoting its release, and said she’d written it with her kids to help address some of the questions that had come up in the year since they’d lost their father. “It’s been a long, long year and difficult year,” she told public radio station KPCW. “Writing this book has brought a little peace to me, to me and my boys.” She hoped it would help other families going through similar losses, she’d said. The book’s sale page on Amazon has been removed.
Less than two months later, and before her anticipated second book, Mom, How Far Away is Heaven?, could be released, detectives spoke with a person who said they’d sold large amounts of fentanyl to Richins. Now, she faces a charge of aggravated first-degree murder as well as three felony counts of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. In Utah, aggravated murder can be punishable by a death sentence, if the case goes to trial as a capital offense.
Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson declined a request for comment on this case. Lawyers for Richins did not respond to a request for comment.
Court filings in Summit County Court and obtained by Rolling Stone reveal a narrative of the alleged crimes: In the pre-dawn hours of March 4, 2022, Richins called 911, reporting that her husband was unresponsive. When Summit County Sheriff’s deputies and EMS arrived around 3:30 a.m., they found Eric Richins on the floor at the foot of the bed. According to the arrest warrant, “Life saving measures were attempted, but Eric was declared deceased.” Eric had died from a fentanyl overdose. The drug in his system was illegal fentanyl, not medical grade. The medical examiner believed it had been taken orally.
Sheriff’s deputies then interviewed Eric’s wife at the scene. She told them the couple had been home the previous night with their three children. The adults were celebrating Richin closing on a house for her business. (According to Utah government records, Richin is a licensed real estate agent.) She’d made him a Moscow Mule cocktail around 9:00 p.m., she said, which he drank sitting in bed. She went to sleep shortly after that, she said, but awoke when one of their kids was having “a night terror,” the warrant states. She went to sleep with the child for a few hours, and returned to the couple’s bedroom around 3:00 a.m. Eric was cold to the touch, she said. She called 911.
There were some inconsistencies in parts of Richins’ story. For example, according to the warrant, she told deputies she’d left her cell phone plugged in in her bedroom while she slept with her child. During the timeframe she reported being in her child’s room, however, cell phone data revealed someone had been moving that phone around the house and sending and receiving messages — messages that were later deleted.
Information recovered from Richins’ cell phone also revealed communications with an acquaintance of Richins’ who is identified in court records as C.L., court filings reveal. According to the warrant, C.L. had a record of drug charges, including multiple charges for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. In a May 2, 2023, interview with detectives, C.L. said that between December 2021 and February 2022, Richins had asked C.L. for some prescription pain medication. It was for an investor with a back injury, she’d said. C.L. had gotten her some hydrocodone pills.
About two weeks later, in February, court documents state, Richins had said the investor wanted something stronger. She had asked for “some of the Michael Jackson stuff,” and had requested fentanyl, specifically. C.L. said they’d gotten her 15-30 fentanyl pills, for which she’d paid C.L. $900.
A few days after Richins bought the fentanyl, she and Eric celebrated Valentine’s Day with at home. Shortly after dinner, Eric became very ill. “Eric believed that he had been poisoned,” the warrant states. “Eric told a friend that he thought his wife was trying to poison him.”
Less than two weeks after Valentine’s Day, Richins contacted C.L. again, asking for more fentanyl. On Feb. 26, 2022, C.L. got her another $900 worth. Six days later, Eric was dead.
According to an online obituary, Eric was 39 when he died. He was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and enjoyed hunting and snowmobiling. He had worked on his family’s cattle ranch before building his own masonry business, the obit said. When he died, his and Richins’ children were five, seven, and nine years old.
On Monday, Richins made her initial court appearance via Webex. A judge advised her of the charges, and spoke with her attorney Skye Lazaro in a virtual breakout room. Richins is being held without bail in Summit County Jail until a detention hearing set for May 19.