Kouri Richins in court after attorneys make case for her release
UPDATE: A judge has denied Kouri Richins' request to be allowed out on bail during the proceedings. She will remain in custody.
Kouri Richins wants to get out of jail. And on Friday, her attorneys filed a motion with the court giving reasons why she should be released.
Kouri was arrested May 8 for the murder of her husband, Eric Richins, in March 2022. Prosecutors say Eric died of a fentanyl overdose and his wife is responsible for giving him the illegal drug.
Did Kouri poison her husband?
The case against Kouri includes claims by Eric’s family and friends that he told them he thought his wife tried to kill him on a trip to Greece in 2019, and on Valentine’s Day 2022.
But in their motion filed with the court Friday, Kouri’s attorneys say there has not been a single text message or other document from prosecutors proving Eric told anyone he thought Kouri was trying to kill him, and witnesses contradict those allegations.
They explain Eric’s illness in Greece was the result of a waitress giving Eric a mixed drink after he said he couldn’t drink alcohol due to medicine he was taking for Lyme disease. The defense says six friends were with Eric and Kouri at the time he became sick, and none of them witnessed Kouri handling Eric’s drink.
As for Valentine’s Day, Kouri’s attorneys say Eric wasn’t feeling well after eating a lunch she bought him, so he took a nap at his office. From there he sent Kouri a text saying he wished she was with him. He went home after his nap and spoke to the kids’ nanny who said Eric wasn’t acting ill, and he seemed “completely normal” as he took the children to soccer practice.
The defense also quoted friends who were with Eric and Kouri on February 20, 2022, less than two weeks before Eric died, and said the couple “never seemed happier.” Attorneys for Kouri also note Eric’s name for her in his phone was “My Princess.”
Also in the defense motion filed Friday, attorneys quote witnesses who say Eric “was a partier and loved a good time,” and they recounted stories about “trips and drinking and drugs in Hawaii, Africa, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Mexico.”
Did Kouri have financial motive to kill Eric?
Kouri’s attorneys also counter Eric’s family’s claims that she had financial reasons to kill her husband. They say she fraudulently used the power of attorney he gave her to secure a $250,000 home equity loan. But Kouri’s attorneys say Eric knew about the loan, which was used in part to work on a home in Heber City, and he even worked on the house himself.
Prosecutors say Kouri opened at least four separate life insurance policies on Eric between 2015 and 2017. The defense says Eric knew about the policies because they required him to take medical examinations, and one was paid for with the couple’s joint checking account.
Regarding the claim that Kouri changed a life insurance policy Eric had with his business partner to make herself the beneficiary, the defense notes the change happened at 7:21 in the evening and was changed six minutes later and there is no evidence identifying what computer was used to make the change.
Prosecutors claim Kouri’s desire to purchase a $2M home in Midway was a source of conflict between the couple. However, defense attorneys say Eric had no say in the matter, since she bought the house as the sole owner of K. Richins Realty and Eric had no role in executing the transaction.
Did Kouri have a “large party” after Eric died?
According to a search warrant filed in the case against Kouri, she threw a “large party” at her home the day after Eric died, which was also the day she closed on the purchase of the home near Midway. Defense attorneys say the gathering was not planned but was the result of people stopping by to offer condolences, and much of the time was spent playing games with Eric and Kouri’s children to keep their minds off their father’s death. Kouri’s attorneys say claims by Eric’s family members that she was “celebrating” are contradicted by other witnesses.
As for the allegation that Kouri hit one of Eric’s sisters after she learned Eric had given another family member power of attorney, defense attorneys say she only pushed the sister after she told Kouri the family home was “no longer Kouri’s house.” Witnesses say the sister escalated the situation and while Kouri never hit her, she did push the sister. Kouri later pleaded no contest to a class B misdemeanor.
The defense noted Eric and Kouri purchased their home in Kamas, the legal title was put only in Eric’s name, even though Kouri also contributed money to the down payment.
The night Eric died
On March 3, 2022, Kouri’s attorneys say she made Eric a drink around 9:15 p.m. She then went to sleep in one of the children’s rooms because the child was having a nightmare.
The defense says Eric used his cell phone over the next two and a half hours, trying to make arrangements to get the horns from an animal he had recently shot on a hunting trip to Mexico. When Kouri returned to Eric around 3:00 a.m., she discovered he was not breathing and called 911.
The main witness in the prosecution’s case, the person they say gave Kouri the drugs that killed her husband, is currently on probation for several felony charges, and the defense argues this witness could be giving information as a “get out of jail free card.” After prosecutors told the witness their statements weren’t strong enough, the defense claims the witness’s testimony “evolved to conform with law enforcement’s theory of this case.” In addition, the defense says amended information from the state in regards to the witness is “rife with inconsistencies” and “such inconsistencies cast serious doubt on the credibility and reliability of the testimony” provided by the witness.
The argument for release
Kouri’s attorneys say she should not have to be in jail before her trial because the state lacks the evidence to support the charges against her, including the fact police have never found any illegal drugs in the family home. Police at the scene of Eric’s death didn’t test the glass he drank from, even after they were told Kouri had mixed him a cocktail that night. And prosecutors “never investigated an alternative theory that perhaps Eric’s alcohol and drug use had escalated.”
The defense also says the state has no evidence Kouri would benefit financially from Eric’s death. They claim she didn’t owe him any money, and while Kouri owed money to a lender, she was making payments on time.
And finally, the defense says the prosecution can’t prove Kouri is a danger to the community, saying she is actively engaged in the community through a church group and boy scout troop. They also say Kouri has known for months she was under investigation and hired an attorney who attempted to cooperate with the investigation, to no avail.
The defense motion also states Kouri’s knowledge of the investigation in the months preceding her arrest proves she is not a flight risk. She has lived in Utah for more than twenty years, her children and family live in Utah, and her business and friends are in the state, so she has no reason to leave.
The prosecution defends their case
Summit County attorneys defended their case, saying "substantial evidence" exists to support the aggravated murder charge against Kouri Richins, and the court must hold her without bail pending trial.
Prosecutors say Eric's blood contained five times the lethal amount of fentanyl, which was orally ingested, and Kouri had reached out to an aquaintance a few months before Eric died to request the drug.
Only Kouri could have admnistered the drug the night Eric died, prosecutors say, because she, Eric and their children - all of whom are under the age of 9 - were the only ones at the home. As for whether Eric used illegal substances, Kouri repeatedly insisted to police he didn't use drugs, "apart from occasional THC gummies."
The County Attorney's Office said Kouri gave "demonstrably false information" regarding the night Eric died, saying she went to sleep in her child's room around 9:30 p.m., but cell phone records show she browsed the internet after 10:00 p.m., and there's a 14 minute delay from when she unlocked her phone at 3:07 a.m. and when she called 911 at 3:22 a.m. In addition, she deleted her text messages from her phone the night Eric died.
As for Kouri's financial situation, prosecutors maintain her "small house flipping business was drowning in nearly two million dollars of debt." And Kouri only had a right to Eric's money if he died, due to a premarital agreement they signed in which they gave up rights to each other's assets, except if Eric died while they were lawfully married.
Also, prosecutors say they found incriminating internet searches on an iPhone found in Kouri's dresser drawer on her side of the bed during a search of the home the day she was arrested. Some of the searches they discovered on the phone include: how a poisoning death is reflected on a death certficate, if deleted text messages can be retrieved, luxury prisons in America, whether life insurance will pay if a death certificate is pending, and whether police can force someone to take a lie detector test.
Also noted was a search for the home address of a detective assigned to the case, and contact information for the relative of a second detective.
County attorneys claim Kouri obtained more fentanyl after Eric died, and it is unknown what she intended to do with it and where it is.
They mention a conversation between Kouri and her family in the Summit County Jail that was recorded after her arrest in which they were discussing how the state needed to prove she is a danger to the community. During the conversation, Kouri's mother said the only person Kouri is a danger to is a relative of Eric's, who is also his trustee. Kouri responded, "Yeah, ha, ha."
And finally, the prosecution says Kouri Richins is a flight risk and they have proof she prepared to flee the area. They found a large duffle bag and daypacks, one for Kouri and each of her three children. The bags contain clothes, shoes, toiletries, and camping supplies. They also have copies of important documents like driver's licenses and Social Security cards.
Kouri Richins is scheduled to be in court Monday.