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Utah children’s book author accused of husband’s murder changed life insurance policies, prosecutors say


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah woman who wrote a children’s book about grief after her husband’s death and was later arrested on charges of murdering him made changes to her husband’s life insurance policy years before he was fatally poisoned, according to indictment documents updated Thursday.

The additional allegations, previously mentioned in search warrants but not in the indictment documents, led to the postponement of a hearing on the detention scheduled for Friday, which would mark Kouri Richins’ first time in court since her case became the latest true crime sensation earlier this month. The hearing has been moved to June 12.

Prosecutors say Kouri Richins, 33, poisoned her husband, Eric Richins, 39, by slipping five times the lethal dose of fentanyl into a cocktail she made for him in March 2022. The mother of three later self-published a children’s book titled “Are you with me?” about an angel-clad deceased father who watches over his sons. She promoted it on television and radio, describing the book as a way to helping children grieve the loss of a loved one.

Years earlier, Kouri Richins bought four life insurance policies on her husband’s life without his knowledge from 2015 to 2017 with benefits totaling nearly $2 million, prosecutors alleged in documents updated Thursday.

The documents don’t reveal when Eric Richins discovered the changes, but do say he met with a divorce attorney and estate planner in October 2020, a month after discovering his wife had made several other major financial moves without his knowledge.

Prosecutors said Eric Richins found out his wife had taken out and spent a $250,000 home equity line of credit, debited $100,000 from his bank accounts and spent more than $30,000 on his credit cards, according to the documents. Kouri Richins also stole about $134,000 from her husband’s company, intended for tax payments, the documents say.

According to the documents, she agreed to repay her husband when he confronted her about it.

Relatives interviewed by investigators indicated that Eric Richins was planning to divorce Kouri Richins and had recently changed his will and life insurance policy.

Previous indictment documents and warrants detail the years of investigation authorities conducted before arresting Kouri Richins this month. The documents include interviews with an unnamed informant who says she trafficked Richin’s hydrocodone and fentanyl in the weeks and months before her husband’s death.

Richins, a real estate agent, told the dealer that both drugs were for an investor with back pain. The dealer said Richins bought the hydrocodone shortly before Valentine’s Day, when prosecutors say she put drugs in Eric Richins’ sandwich.

After he survived, his wife asked for stronger drugs, specifically “some of the Michael Jackson stuff,” the dealer told investigators. When Jackson died of cardiac arrest in 2009, medical examiners found prescription drugs and potent anesthetics in his system, not fentanyl.

Kouri Richins’ attorney, Skye Lazaro, has declined to comment on the allegations.

The case has turned the eyes of the world on the sleepy back towns of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, which are rapidly evolving from predominantly agricultural communities to high-end bedroom communities, where first and second homeowners like the Richinses can easily access skiing. , hiking trails and the alpine lakes of the nearby Uinta Mountains. The Richinses lived in a new development in the town of Francis, about 50 miles east of Salt Lake City.

Eric Richins came from a large family, well known locally, with members active in local politics and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He met Kouri Richins when she worked at a local Home Depot where he often shopped, a former colleague said KUTV.

Eric’s family told investigators he had expressed suspicions that his wife had tried to poison him before, including while on vacation to Greece a few years ago. They also raised questions about marital discord due to changes in his will and the purchase of an incomplete nearby mansion in Midway, Utah, which Kouri Richins bought in hopes of selling quickly.

The person who says she sold the fentanyl to Kouri Richins told investigators she left the pills in the sprawling, unfinished home — a 20,000-square-foot (1,860-square-meter) mansion that, when completed, would have eight bedrooms and a indoor volleyball will have. court, a video ad promoting its sale.

Marital disputes over the home form the basis for one of the many unanswered questions about motive likely to arise if Richins’ case goes to trial. Since Eric Richins’ death, his relatives have argued with his wife over his estate, including competing claims over how to split a masonry business with his former partner and what claims Kouri Richins has on a trust set aside for his next of kin.

Greg Skordas, a lawyer and victims’ advocate who works with Eric Richins’ relatives, said Richins’ three children are staying with an unnamed relative while their mother awaits trial. Katie Richins-Benson, Eric Richins’ sister and trustee of his estate, has filed for custody of the children.

Civil lawsuits filed in several cases after Eric Richins’ death outline how what lawyers call “the suspicious circumstances” surrounding his death have long circulated. The murder charges have become intertwined with questions about his assets and an estate held in a trust and administered by his sister. Kouri Richins has been fighting with members of her late husband’s family since the day after his deathappears from the documents.

According to the documents, Kouri Richins and her sister-in-law had a fight at the family home the day after Eric Richins’ death. Kouri Richins then sued for more than $3.6 million and to remove Katie Richins-Benson as trustee, arguing that a prenuptial agreement she and her husband signed entitled her to his estate if he died before they divorced .

Utah law prohibits those convicted of murder from profiting from their crime.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.