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Friday, February 23, 2024

Woman charged in husband’s poisoning death accused of witness tampering while in Utah jail

A Utah children’s book author charged with fatally poisoning her husband has now been accused of witness tampering, according to court documents.

Kouri Richins, a mother of three who wrote a book about about coping with grief after losing her husband, was arrested in June in connection with Eric Richins death last year. Prosecutors alleged that Richins called authorities in the middle of the night in March 2022 to report that her husband was “cold to the touch” and unresponsive. He had five times the lethal dosage of fentanyl in his system, a medical examiner found.

Prosecutors said that deputies found a six-page letter in Richins’ cell at Summit County jail on Sept. 14. The alleged message to her mother, Lisa Darden, included instructions for Richins’ brother, Ronald, prosecutors say.

“The letter instructs Lisa Darden to induce the Defendant’s brother, Ronald Darden, who is Lisa Darden’s son, to testify falsely in this matter,” the court document states. “The letter claims that defense counsel ‘wants to link Eric [Richins] getting drugs and pills from Mexico’ to the fentanyl that caused his death.”

Richins allegedly asked her mother in the letter to relate the request to Ronald Darden in person because she worried her mother’s “house and phone are bugged.”

She allegedly wrote that “Ronny” could phrase the story how he wanted, saying “it can be short and to the point but has to be done.”

The letter also includes a section on mortgage relief and a request for teeth whitening strips, prosecutors said.

“I love you. I love you. I love you! Hang in there, we’re getting there, slowly,” she allegedly wrote at the close of the letter. “Your [sic] the best mom in the whole world! I’m so lucky to have you!”

Prosecutors asked the judge to bar Richins from contacting her mother and brother based on the contents of the letter. They wrote that it’s unclear if the letter or its content ever made it to Lisa Darden or anyone else.

They’re also investigating another letter from Sept. 13. Prosecutors said that during a video conference with her mother, Richins held up a letter to be read silently. That letter has not been found, and prosecutors believe it was likely destroyed.

Richins’ defense has filed a separate motion arguing that the state’s public filing of the alleged handwritten letter violated the gag order in the case, calling it an “extrajudicial statement made for the apparent purpose of influencing the court of public opinion.” They also alleged that prosecutors obtained the letter “through a potentially illegal search of Ms. Richins’ documents, which were stored in an envelope titled “Skye Lazaro (Attorney Privilege).”

Katie Richins-Benson, the sister of Kouri Richins’ late husband, filed a lawsuit earlier this year, seeking over $13 million in damages for alleged financial wrongdoing before and after his death.

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