Eric Richins’ family remains hopeful ‘the truth will be told at some point’

Summit County prosecutors concerned about witness tampering, according to court filings

Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband then wrote a children's book about grieving, walks out of the court during a recess at a bail hearing in June. A Summit County judge ruled to keep her in custody for the duration of her trial.
Rick Bowmer/AP photo, pool

Eric Richins’ family is optimistic the truth will be told during the criminal trial against Kouri Richins following concerns about witness tampering raised by Summit County prosecutors last week.

The County Attorney’s Office filed a no-contact order aiming to prevent Kouri from speaking with her mother, Lisa Darden, and brother, Ronald Darden, after Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputies located a six-page “Walk the Dog” letter allegedly written by Kouri during a cell search that requested Lisa Darden ask Ronald Darden to provide false testimony, according to Third District Court filings.

The contents also appeared to include instructions for Kouri’s friends on how to talk about Eric, such as stories about partying or constant jealousy from his sisters, during an upcoming interview on “Good Morning America.”

“There’s nothing that these people are doing right now that doesn’t surprise the family or the lengths that they’re willing to go to. … It doesn’t do us any good to get in the weeds with them. So that’s not going to happen,” Greg Skordas, a spokesperson for Eric’s family, said in an interview with The Park Record.

Kouri later told her mother the writing was an excerpt from a fictional mystery book she’s authoring about drugs and a Mexican prison, court documents stated. The Kamas mother of three wrote a children’s book about her husband’s death and is also accused of fatally poisoning him. Eric died after ingesting five times the lethal dose of fentanyl.

Skordas continued: “The truth will be told at some point. [The Richins family is] not in the business of slandering others or trying to distort the truth. They are going to wait until the appropriate time.”

Kouri is charged with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and three second-degree felonies for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance stemming from Eric’s death last March. The Richins family believe she had a financial motive to murder.

Skye Lazaro, a defense attorney for Kouri, argued prosecutors violated a gag order by publishing the letter on a public docket and the letter was privileged attorney-client information discovered in a “potentially illegal” search.

Prosecutors said the letter was actually recovered from Kouri’s LSAT prep book, and deputies are allowed to search legal envelopes for contraband or evidence of a crime, like witness tampering.

“Let’s get this case in front of a jury and let eight people decide what really happened here instead of trying to get people to testify untruthfully,” Skordas said. “[The letter] is certainly an attempt to manipulate the truth, but I’m not going to say whether or not that’s a crime.”

The Richins family remembers Eric as a great man and a dedicated father who loved his family, Skordas said.

A work of fiction?

Prosecutors said in court filings Kouri read a portion of a letter written to her by another inmate, which is prohibited under jail rules, to her mother during a phone call on Sept. 13. The next day, Kouri had a video call with Darden and held up a multi-page letter “so her mother could read or photograph it.” Kouri did not read it out loud.

Deputies searched Kouri’s cell later that day. They were unable to locate the first two letters, and prosecutors said the letters were likely destroyed. However, they found a third letter in a Law School Admission Test workbook which prompted prosecutors to file a motion for a no-contact order on Sept. 15. It’s unclear if Darden saw the contents before it was publicized.

“Those papers were not a letter to you guys, they were part of my freaking book. … You can very much tell that the whole thing is very much a story,” Kouri told Darden during a Saturday phone call, according to court documents.

Prosecutors called the explanation far-fetched. They said the “audience, content, and purpose are readily apparent — the Defendant is asking her mother to facilitate witness tampering involving her brother, seeking to have her brother support a false factual narrative.”

The first page of the letter instructs Darden to “Walk The Dog!! But take vague notes so you remember” before detailing a need to connect Eric “getting drugs and pills from Mexico.”

It continues: “Here is what I am thinking but you have to talk to Ronney. He would probably have to testify to this. … Reword this however he needs to, to make the point just include it all.” The letter also emphasized the conversation should be in-person because Kouri fears her mother’s house and phone are bugged.

The recipient was also encouraged to “get at Katie,” who is one of Eric’s sisters, by anonymously sending photos of the family’s children to the media. The letter continued to provide different stories for Kouri’s friends to tell during future interviews. The criminal case has received widespread attention in the national and international press. 

“This comes down to jealousy, money and Eric’s partying that they don’t want to acknowledge and sadly an accidental overdose,” page six of the letter said.

Next steps

Lazaro said in court filings she wants prosecutors held in contempt of court and for sanctions to be imposed for violating a gag order that prevents “an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in this matter.” 

“The State’s intention was to improperly file the letter to taint the media, the jury pool, the public narrative, and has the added consequence of potentially tainting expected witnesses in this matter,” the filing stated.

Prosecutors said the motion is a “ready, aim, fire” response to Kouri’s alleged misconduct in jail. Prosecutors asked Judge Richard Mrazik to deny the defense’s request.

Lazaro had not responded to the state’s motion for a no-contact order as of Sept. 21.

Kouri is set to appear for a scheduling conference on Nov. 3. A preliminary hearing date could be set at that time. She will be held without bail for the duration of her trial.

“The defendant enjoys a constitutional presumption of innocence which everyone should observe and protect,” the County Attorney’s Office previously said in a statement.


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