The “bomb letter” that could jail children’s author for murder

Suspected husband murderer and children’s author Kouri Richins may have written her own fate. A confiscated letter she wrote to her mother in prison will prove difficult to circumvent, a legal expert said Newsweek.

In retrospect, Widow Richins’ April TV interview might make for uncomfortable viewing.

Kouri Richins spoke nervously and nervously about the loss of her husband while promoting her children’s book Are you with me?, which tells children that even if their parents die, they are with them in everyday life. In a soft voice, Richins tells Deena Manzanares and Surae Chinn, hosts of “Good Things Utah” on KTVX, on April 6 that her husband, Eric, died on March 4, 2022, leaving behind three young boys.

Kouri Richins and her late husband Eric
Kouri Richins and her late husband Eric in an undated Facebook photo. Prosecutors say they received a letter detailing how she tried to frame her husband for taking fentanyl.
Kouri Richins/Facebook

The camera focuses on the cover of the book. It is an illustration of Eric Richins smiling down at his children from a heavenly cloud. He has angel wings and a halo and his hands are raised in celebration as his son runs for a soccer ball.

Eric is wearing the farmer’s hat and sleeveless jacket he wore every day while working on the family farm in Utah.

“My husband passed away unexpectedly last year. March 4th was our one year anniversary. He was 39,” Kouri said in the April interview.

“It completely shocked us all. We have three little boys, 10, 9 and 6, and my kids and I kind of wrote this book about the different emotions and grieving processes that we’ve experienced over the last year.”

The front page of Kouri Richins 2023
The cover of the 2023 book “Are You With Me?” by Kouri Richins. The author was accused of murdering her husband.
Kouri Richins/Facebook

Perhaps those feelings changed the following month when Richins was charged with her husband’s murder.

The wealthy farmer and businessman died of a fentanyl overdose and prosecutors allege Richins slipped the drug into her husband’s drink.

It emerged that the couple had an argument in the days before Eric’s death over their plans to buy and remodel a $2 million home, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.

On March 4, a day before the alleged murder, Kouri signed closing papers on the mansion, which sits on 10 acres, and invited her friends to a party, according to search warrant affidavits.

To celebrate the following evening, she brought her husband a cocktail in bed – his favorite cocktail: a Moscow Mule.

According to Kouri’s version of events, she slept with the children that night, and when she returned to her husband’s bedroom in the early hours of the morning, he was already dead.

At first the police believed her story, but then strange details emerged. First, Eric was a hard-working family man who had never used fentanyl in the past.

Kouri had also taken out life insurance in his name in the months before his death. According to a police affidavit in support of a search warrant, Eric had given his sister Katie Richins-Benson power of attorney over his estate because he feared his wife would “kill him for money.” It also emerged that he was poisoned on Valentine’s Day after allegedly eating a special meal prepared for him by his loving wife.

After his death, she initiated a legal battle against his family to secure an estate worth over $3.6 million.

The 33-year-old Mormon and mother of three has been held in the Summit County Jail in Utah since her arrest on May 8 and has been charged with felony murder, aggravated murder and three counts of possession of a controlled substance. She denies the allegations.

According to Summit County detectives’ affidavit, Richins’ housekeeper, Carmen Lauber, “admitted to supplying her with 15 to 30 fentanyl pills on two separate occasions, approximately a month before Eric’s death,” sheriff’s detectives said Summit County said in the affidavit, adding that Lauber told them that Kouri paid her about $900 each time she administered the pills.

Things were about to get worse for Richins and her defense team. A search of her jail cell in September uncovered a six-page letter to her mother in which Richins allegedly explained how her brother Ronney made up a story about how Eric was looking for illegal drugs. A massive legal dispute has broken out over the letter that could drag on for months.

In the letter, Richins allegedly wants Ronney to say that Eric told him that he received painkillers and fentanyl from Mexico from some farm workers who worked on the Richins farm.

Ronney’s statement in court “may be short and succinct, but must be made,” the letter said. She asked her mother, Lisa Darden, to pass the information on to her brother personally, saying her mother’s house and phone could be tapped.

Kouri Richins' confiscated prison letter
Kouri Richins’ confiscated prison letter to her mother, Lisa Darden, in which she allegedly attempts to frame her late husband, Eric, for taking fentanyl.
Summit County Prosecutor’s Office

In the letter, she imagines the story Ronney should tell the court. “A year before Eric died, Ronney was watching football one Sunday and Eric and Ronney were talking about Eric’s trips to Mexico. “Eric told Ronney that he was getting painkillers and fentanyl from Mexico from the ranch workers,” the letter states. “[Eric said] I don’t tell myself because I would get mad because I always said he gets high every night and doesn’t care about the kids.”

After the letter was confiscated, Richins called her mother from prison and, perhaps knowing the conversation was being recorded by authorities, explained that the letter was just part of a novel she was writing.

This appears to undermine her attorney’s claim in court that the letter was intended to be passed from her mother to her attorney and was therefore protected by attorney-client privilege.

Former Salt Lake County prosecutor Nathan Evershed, who now works for the Nelson Jones law firm in Utah, said Newsweek that it would be “a bombshell for the defense if the letter were admitted to trial” and that it would now be “an uphill climb” to establish that the letter was a communication between attorney and client.

According to Rule 504 of the Utah Rules of Evidence, attorney-client communications are privileged if “the communications were for the purpose of or in the course of obtaining or facilitating the provision of legal services” and were communications between the client or his or her representative, and the lawyer or his representative.

Could it be argued that Richins gave the letter to her representative (her mother) to forward to her attorney?

“In this case, as far as I can tell, the contents of the letter do not demonstrate that it was prepared either for the purpose of facilitating legal advice or that it was between the client and the attorney,” Evershed said. “Ms. Richins’ assertion that it was a fictional narrative further undermines the argument that it was an attorney-client communication.”

Richins’ lawyers are expected to appear in court again later this month to fight to have the letter excluded from the trial, arguing that it is confidential information.

“The importance of this letter is underscored by the intense litigation currently surrounding it,” Evershed said.

From his time as a prosecutor, he has seen how a defendant’s attempts to tamper with witnesses can have a very powerful effect on a jury.

“In my experience, a defendant’s words are incredibly important to a jury, particularly instructions to other witnesses,” he said. “If it is admitted into evidence, the state will have a lot of trouble with the letter.”

Newsweek Kouri Richins’ legal team emailed for comment.