'What is a lethal dose of fentanyl?': Alleged search history of mom charged with husband's murder

Searches found on Kouri Richins' phone: 'Luxury prisons for the rich in America;' 'can cops force you to do a lie detector test?'

ByCamila Bernal and Cheri Mossburg, CNN
Monday, June 12, 2023
Alleged search history of Utah mom charged with husband's murder
Who is Kouri Richins? New details were revealed about the alleged search history of the Utah mom accused of killing husband Eric Richins.

UTAH -- "What is a lethal dose of fentanyl" is one of many phone searches that investigators say were made by Kouri Richins, a Utah widow accused of killing her husband before she authored a children's book about grief, CNN reported.

The new details on the widow's alleged search history emerged as part of the prosecution's case against Richins, 33, who will be in a Park City, Utah, court Monday for a detention hearing. A judge is expected to decide if she should be released or remain in custody pending the outcome of her trial.

Prosecutors allege she killed Eric Richins, her husband of nine years, with a lethal dose of fentanyl. She faces charges of criminal homicide, aggravated murder and three counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. She has not yet entered a plea.

The documents released Friday also give insight into Richins' defense. Her attorneys argue "there is no substantial evidence to support the charges" and say she should be released as she awaits trial.

SEE ALSO | Author accused of poisoning husband allegedly bought nearly $2M in life insurance

Among the details released in the documents are internet searches investigators say were found on Richins' phone that were described by prosecutors as "incriminating."

Some of the articles pulled up through her searches focused on fentanyl, life insurance payments and others relating to police investigations and how data is collected from electronic devices.

The searches found on Richins' iPhone include the phrases: "can cops force you to do a lie detector test?" "Luxury prisons for the rich in America," "death certificate says pending, will life insurance still pay?" "If someone is poisoned what does it go down on the death certificate as," and "How to permanently delete information from an iPhone remotely."

Eric Richins was found dead at the foot of the couple's bed in March 2022. His wife told investigators at the time that she brought her husband a Moscow Mule cocktail in the bedroom of their Kamas, Utah, home, then left to sleep with their son in his room and returned around 3 a.m. to find her husband lying on the floor cold to the touch.

About a year to the day after her husband died, Richins published a children's book, "Are You With Me?" about navigating grief after the loss of a loved one.

Alleged fentanyl purchases before husband's death

Prosecutors say Richins withdrew money from bank accounts without her husband's knowledge and tried to change a life insurance policy to make herself the sole beneficiary. They also point to various incidents where she allegedly may have attempted to poison him.

Meanwhile, her lawyers argue in filings made Friday that Richins had the right to withdraw money from their joint accounts, claim "there is no evidence identifying the computer from which the login was initiated" when the life insurance policy change was attempted, and say she did not attempt to poison him.

Investigators also detailed a series of illicit fentanyl purchases in the months leading up to her husband's death, according to the documents. His death was six days after the latest alleged pill delivery, investigators say.

An autopsy and toxicology report revealed that Eric Richins, 39, had about five times the lethal dosage of fentanyl in his system, according to a medical examiner.

The defense insists there is no proof their client gave her husband the lethal dose.

"Law enforcement never identified or seized any fentanyl or other illicit drugs from the Family Home," her defense lawyers wrote in a motion. Also, "the State has provided no evidence that there was fentanyl found in the home. Nor have they provided any evidence that Kouri gave Eric the fentanyl at issue."

Eric Richins is described as a "partier" and someone who "loved a good time," in the defense motion. "He would consume alcohol and THC in any form," the document said.

The defense motion also points to discrepancies in witness testimony, adding that law enforcement told one witness that "if she gave them what they wanted, it would constitute her 'get out of jail free card,'" the document says.

Allegations of forged documents

Potentially previewing what may be presented in trial, another filing in the case includes allegations that some of Eric Richins' financial documents may have been forged.

The professional opinion of Matt Throckmorton - a forensic document examiner who looked at three specific documents relating to durable power of attorney and life insurance - is included in the filings.

After comparing those documents with dozens of other documents Eric Richins authored, Throckmorton indicated that signatures on the three items in question appear to have been forged.

"The forgeries in this case are 'simulated forgeries.' That is when someone tries to copy, draw or duplicate another person's characteristics and habits and tries to create a fraudulent signature or set of initials with enough similarities they might get passed off as genuine," Throckmorton explained.

"Eric made and requested several unusual to highly unusual choices and provisions to his estate plan," said attorney Kristal Bowman-Carter, who counseled Eric on estate planning, according to the documents.

Those unusual requests included that his wife not be designated as his health care agent should one be needed and that his wife and children be provided for, but with the caveat that she should be unable to control the financials. Eric chose his father and sister to be trustees on his family's behalf, according to the documents.

Eric sought to "protect the three young sons he and Kouri had together in the long-term by ensuring that Kouri would never be in a position to manage his property after his death," Bowman-Carter said.

In a phone conversation the day after Eric's death, Bowman-Carter explained the trust to Kouri. She said Kouri "became extremely upset. Her behavior (led) me to believe she was learning this for the first time."

In an email included in the filings, Richins wrote to police clarifying information about her previous testimony, including a reference to an affair her husband previously had. "Eric's affair was the same year I 'moved out,' the trust was created as well as him looking into a divorce," she wrote. "Eric and I figured things out like most couples do," she added.

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