Days after the Utah father of three died, friends and family descended on his widow, Kouri Richins, with covered dishes and condolences. Sharing memories of Eric Richins, an affluent business owner who had died suddenly at 39, they turned up the country music: mother and sons dancing to one of Eric’s favorite songs, Cody Johnson’s “‘Til You Can’t.”
Eric’s sister, Amy Richins, who videoed the family dance, pointed to a light sparkling around Kouri in the recording. “I think Eric’s dancing with them,” Kouri’s best friend, Ali, recalls Amy saying that March 2022 day.
More than a year later, Kouri — now 33 and a newly-minted author with a children’s book helping kids process the death of a parent — was arrested this May, charged with the aggravated murder of her husband and with several counts of drug possession. She has not yet pleaded to the four charges.
According to prosecutors, at the time of Eric’s death, Kouri owed creditors more than $2 million and planned to make up the difference from five life insurance policies in Eric’s name, worth about the same amount. Kouri is not a bereaved widow processing her grief through writing, prosecutors allege in hundreds of court records obtained by PEOPLE, but a money-obsessed wife who wrote her husband’s end for her own financial gain: Lacing his bedtime Moscow Mule with five times the lethal amount of fentanyl and calling 911 only after his body grew cold.
“She has committed the ultimate act of betrayal,” Amy recently testified at a June hearing in which Kouri was denied bail. “Eric is gone and I’m brokenhearted. He was my best friend and protector. The feeling of loss is so great, it is visceral.”
Within days of the family dance party, relations between Kouri and Eric’s family – long tenuous – disintegrated, several people staying in the family’s Kamas, Utah house at the time tell PEOPLE. And the family feud has become public with dueling civil suits, fighting over the rights to Eric’s estate. Amongst the newest allegations by Katie: Kouri stole $25,000 cash tucked away in Eric’s pajamas the night he died.
Things first turned ugly shortly after that family dance party, when Kouri called for a locksmith to get into her husband’s safe, which had some $100,000 cash inside, according to the criminal complaint. Amy announced the safe wasn’t Kouri’s to open. On the phone, Eric’s estate planner, Kristal Bowman-Carter, informed Kouri of a trust Eric had created, putting his sister, Katie Richins-Benson in charge of his estate, she told the court. “What’s wrong with you people?” she recalled Kouri shouting. “This is my house.” When Kouri was told “it’s not your house,” Kouri struck Amy with her hand in “pure hatred and rage,” Amy later told a judge. (Kouri pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge in connection to the incident.)
Family spokesman, attorney Greg Skordas credits Eric’s family – who hired a private investigator – with helping bring about Kouri’s arrest. “They pushed the police; they kept their feet to the fire,” Skordas says. “I think Kouri underestimated what Eric’s family would do. They’re not giving up.”
Shortly after Eric’s death, one of his sisters went to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, alleging Eric had told her Kouri had previously tried to poison his drink during a vacation to Greece years ago. Jayme N. Woody, the former lead detective on the case, wrote in an affidavit for a search warrant in April 2022 that Eric’s family members told her “they suspected his wife has something to do with his death,” adding that Eric had “warned them that if anything happened to him she was to blame.”
Less than three weeks before Kouri’s arrest, she emailed the sheriff’s office to “clarify” some of the things she had told them. “I just want this over,” she wrote. “I just want our lives back and to move on and grieve and mourn my husband without looking over my shoulder constantly for you guys, or the idiotic Private Investigator or the Richins family. Whatever I can do to help close this out, just ask.”
If convicted of the charges, Kouri faces between 25 years to life in prison without parole. 1. A trial date has not yet been set. The next hearing is slated for Sept. 1.