An author who wrote a recently published children’s book about grief, after the sudden death of her husband, was on Monday arrested on charges of murdering her spouse.
Writer Kouri Darden Richins, 33, is facing a first-degree aggravated murder charge. She has also three second-degree felony charges of possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, according to NBC affiliate KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, Utah.
About 6 percent of the 17,970 males murdered in 2021 were victims of intimate partner homicide, according to data reported by law-enforcement agencies.
Darden Richins had been married to her husband for nine years and had three children with him at the time of his death. She released the book Are You With Me? almost a year to the day after his passing. The work, which guides children through the difficulty of losing a loved one, was written in reaction to Richins’ death.
Citing court documents, the outlet reports that first responders responded to calls regarding an unresponsive man in a Summit County, Utah, residence on March 4, 2022. Eric Richins, 39, was found on the floor at the foot of his bed, per KSL-TV.
“Life-saving measures were attempted, but Eric was declared deceased,” the court documents stated. It was later found that Richins died of a fentanyl overdose after ingesting five times the lethal dosage.
Darden Richins said in a police interview that she and her husband were celebrating closing on a house before heading to bed. Darden Richins told authorities that she had made a Moscow mule cocktail for her husband.
Court documents quote Darden Richins as saying that she left the couple’s bedroom to check on one of their children and ended up falling asleep in the child’s room.
Upon returning to the couple’s bedroom at around 3 a.m., Darden Richins “felt Eric, and he was cold to the touch. That is when the defendant called 911,” per the documents.
While Darden Richins told police that she left her phone in the couple’s bedroom, phone records show that the device was active while she was in the child’s bedroom.
“In addition, tolls on the defendant’s phone show that messages were sent and received during that time. These messages were deleted,” stated court documents.
A police search of Darden Richins’ phone and computers showed several communications with an acquaintance. This person themselves had drug-related charges that included multiple counts of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
Speaking with Summit Count detectives on May 2, 2023, the acquaintance said that Darden Richins had requested and received “prescription pain medication for an investor” sometime between December 2021 and February 2022.
The acquaintance was advised to leave the pills at a house that Darden Richins was in the process of flipping, according to court documents. A cash payment for the pills was left at the house.
The acquaintance said that Darden Richins contacted them two weeks later and added that her investor wanted “something stronger and asked for ‘some of the Michael Jackson stuff,'” specifically fentanyl, per the documents. Darden Richins is alleged to have paid $900 for 15 to 30 fentanyl pills in February 2022.
Richins fell ill after a Valentine’s Day dinner at the couple’s home, according to court documents. He is said to have shared with a friend his belief that his wife had poisoned him.
Two weeks later, Darden Richens again made contact with her acquaintance, who got her another $900 of fentanyl pills, per court documents. Weeks later, Richins passed away at the couple’s home.
Citing warrants, Utah radio station KPCW reports that Richins’ family members told investigators shortly after his death that they suspected his wife had killed him. “He warned them that if anything happened to him, she was to blame,” according to documents.
Darden Richins’ claim that she had performed CPR on her husband at the time of his death was deemed unlikely by fire and EMS first responders. They noted the blood coming from the dead man’s mouth.
Darden Richens said, according to documents, that her husband had an addiction to prescription pain medication while he was in high school. She added he didn’t have any substance abuse issues since. No painkillers were found in the family home, per documents.
One of Richins’ two sisters told investigators that he had called her a few years ago while on vacation in Greece with his wife. He allegedly told his sister that a drink Darden Richins had handed him made him violently ill.
Life Insurance Policy
Richins held a joint life-insurance policy with his stone-masonry business partner. Per the warrant, Darden Richins logged into the policy in January 2022 and changed it. She removed the couple as each other’s beneficiary, naming herself as the policy’s sole beneficiary.
After both men were informed by the insurance company of the amendment, they were able to change it back. It was after this that Richins fell ill following his Valentine’s Day meal.
Before his death, Richins reportedly changed the beneficiary of his will and his power of attorney, replacing his wife with his sister. Per the warrant, the businessman didn’t tell Darden Richens of the change. He believed she would “kill him for the money” and wanted their children to be financially secure.
According to warrants, Richins had intended to file for divorce. He passed away before he was able to initiate proceedings.
Darden Richins learned that she had been cut out of her husband’s will at a gathering at the family home on March 5, 2022, one day after Richins’ death.
Weeks later, the defendant sued her sister-in-law for control over his estate. She said that the couple’s prenuptial agreement deems her entitled to the money, family home and other assets. Utah has the Slayer’s Rule, a statute that says a murderer cannot retain a property interest in their victim’s estate.
Hours before Richins died, his wife had thrown a celebratory gathering with friends. While Darden Richins said that they had been celebrating closing on a home, the $2 million in question had been a source of a dispute between the couple.
Darden Richins wanted to buy and flip the home, while Richins thought it was too expensive, according to documents. Richins’ family members told police that he was going to tell his wife they weren’t purchasing the home.
“It’s been a long, long year and difficult year,” Darden Richins told KPCW last month. “Writing this book has brought a little peace to me, to me and my boys.”
Darden Richins revealed plans to write a series of books on grief, with the next one titled Mom, How Far Away Is Heaven?
The realtor and author’s detention hearing has been scheduled for May 19. Judge Richard Mrazik will decide if she should be held in jail while her case is pending.
Newsweek has contacted the Summit County Sheriff’s Office via email for comment.