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Utah mom accused of fatally poisoning husband with fentanyl denied bail ahead of trial

ABC News

(SALT LAKE CITY) — A Utah woman who is accused of poisoning her husband with a lethal dose of fentanyl was denied bail in a court appearance Monday as she awaits trial.


Kouri Richins, 33, was arrested in May and charged with aggravated murder and multiple counts of drug possession in connection with the death of her husband, Eric Richins, 39, who was found dead at the foot of their bed last year, according to the probable cause statement in the charging document. The mom of three authored a children’s book on grief in the wake of her husband’s death.

A month prior to her arrest, Kouri Richins appeared on a “Good Things Utah” segment on Salt Lake City ABC affiliate KTVX to promote the book. In the segment, Kouri Richins said her husband of nine years died “unexpectedly” and that his death “completely took us all by shock.”

Three witnesses were called at the detention hearing that saw Kouri Richins occasionally wipe tears from her eyes. The first witness was lead detective on the case, Jeff O’Driscoll, who answered questions from the defense and prosecutors. A digital forensics and financial forensics investigator also testified in the hearing.

Kouri Richins was visibly emotional as O’Driscoll described the scene where her husband’s body was found. O’Driscoll testified that Kouri Richins said she had attempted CPR on her husband, but an emergency medical technician told O’Driscoll on scene that Eric Richins began foaming at the mouth when they attempted CPR — a sign no one else had tried to resuscitate him.

Eric’s sister, Amy Richins, also gave a victim impact statement at the hearing, saying if Kouri is guilty it is the “ultimate act of betrayal.” She said he was a family man who “loved fully, laughed loudly, lived life with reckless abandon,” and got emotional as she thought about what Kouri Richins may have said to him in his last moments, how long he was conscious and wondered did his boys “catch a glimpse of their father taking his last breath.”

Amy Richins also pleaded with the judge not to let Kouri Richins out on bail. The judge agreed, saying “the circumstances of this case weigh soundly against pretrial release.”

Ahead of the detention hearing in Park City, Richins’ attorneys argued in recent court filings that the realtor should be eligible for bail because there is “no substantial evidence to support the charges.”

Prosecutors allege that Eric Richins was poisoned by a lethal dose of fentanyl on the night of March 3, 2022, according to the charging document.

Kouri Richins allegedly told police following his death that they were celebrating her closing on a house for her business that night and she “made Eric a Moscow Mule in the kitchen and brought it to their bedroom where Eric consumed it while sitting in bed,” according to the probable cause statement.

She allegedly said she went to sleep with one of their children who was having a night terror and returned to her and her husband’s bedroom around 3 a.m., where she found him “cold to the touch,” according to the charging document.

An autopsy determined that Eric Richins died from a fentanyl overdose, and that the level of fentanyl in his system was five times the lethal dosage, according to the charging document. The medical examiner indicated the fentanyl was “illicit fentanyl,” not medical grade, and that it was likely ingested orally, according to the charging document.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for their residence following the toxicology report, including for electronics, and alleged that a search of Kouri Richins’ phone uncovered “several communications” with an acquaintance of hers who had various drug counts, according to the initial charging document. The acquaintance reportedly told authorities they sold Kouri Richins fentanyl pills six days before Eric Richins was found dead, prosecutors allege.

Kouri Richins’ lawyers argued in the new filings that law enforcement never found fentanyl in their family home, and that there are “inconsistencies” in witness statements from someone reported to have been present at the alleged drug deal, including regarding dates and payments of the alleged pill transactions, between the initial and amended charging documents.

Regarding the alleged fatal poisoning, her lawyers said Kouri Richins made her husband a drink that he “consumed two sips of” and that he continued to use his phone for more than two hours. They stated that Kouri Richins had slept in one of her children’s rooms because their child was having a nightmare and when she woke up around 3 a.m. she discovered her husband “cold and not breathing” and called 911, the filings stated.

Her lawyers also addressed various financial dealings involving the couple that were detailed in the amended charging document.

Among them, prosecutors alleged that “unknown to Eric Richins,” Kouri Richins allegedly purchased four life insurance policies on her husband’s life between 2015 and 2017 amounting to nearly $2 million in death benefits. Kouri Richins’ lawyers refuted the allegations that she took out life insurance policies without her husband’s knowledge, arguing in new court filings that he would have known about them.

Her lawyers also responded to claims in the amended charging document that Eric Richins “broke out in hives” after eating a sandwich his wife had prepared for him on Valentine’s Day last year and reportedly used an EpiPen. Her lawyers argued that their nanny did not witness him acting ill or use an EpiPen.

A judge issued a partial gag order earlier this month, limiting what the prosecutors and defense can discuss, amid national interest in the case.

ABC News’ Alyssa Pone contributed to this report.

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