A Utah man who died after his wife allegedly spiked his drink with fentanyl — and then wrote a children's book about grief — had suspected she tried to poison him multiple times and said “she was to blame” if anything happened to him, according to court records.
Despite the suspicions, a family spokesperson told NBC News on Wednesday that Eric Richins stayed in the marriage with Kouri Richins because of his children.
Eric Richins, 39, died March 4, 2022, at his home in Kamas, about 40 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, after he was found unresponsive in his bedroom. Kouri Richins, 33, was arrested Monday on charges of aggravated murder and three counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
An attorney for Kouri Richins, Skye Lazaro, declined to comment Wednesday.
'If anything happened to him she was to blame'
According to affidavits for search warrants obtained Wednesday from the Summit County Sheriff's Office, relatives of Eric Richins told investigators to look into his wife's involvement.
"They advised he warned them that if anything happened to him she was to blame," the records said. Eric Richins, according to the records, suspected his wife had tried to poison him on multiple occasions.
"According to a sister, Eric and his wife went to Greece a few years ago and after his wife gave him a drink he became violently ill and called his sister saying he believed his wife had tried to kill him," the records said.
"On Valentine’s Day of 2022, his wife brought him a sandwich, which after one bite Eric broke into hives and couldn’t breathe. He used his son’s epi-pen as well as Benadryl before passing out for several hours," according to the records.
He was looking into a divorce and had changed his power of attorney, his will and the beneficiary of his life insurance policy from his wife to his sister, the records said.
Two family members said Eric Richins told them he was worried “Kouri would kill him for money and he wanted to make sure the kids were taken care of financially,” the records said.
Staying together for the kids
Family spokesperson Greg Skordas said Wednesday that Eric Richins stayed in the marriage for the sake of his boys.
"They have three boys, three young boys, and I think Eric, being so involved in their lives as a soccer coach, baseball coach, basketball coach, wanted to keep the family together," Skordas said.
Skordas said: "Eric was a good father. ... He was a philanthropist. He cared about a lot of people. ... He did the best he could to make the most of his marriage."
Skordas added the Richins family is very happy charges were filed and they are hopeful "justice will be served."
A Moscow Mule, lethal levels of fentanyl and deleted texts
Authorities said in a probable cause statement that Eric Richins died after his wife served him a celebratory Moscow Mule.
Kouri Richins, according to the statement, told investigators that the night before her husband died, they were celebrating because she had closed on a home for her business. She said that she made him a Moscow Mule in the kitchen and took it to the bedroom and that he drank it sitting in bed, the statement said.
She said she slept in one of her children's bedrooms because the child had a night terror, according to the statement. She allegedly woke up around 3 a.m. and found her husband was in their bedroom "cold to the touch" and called 911.
Kouri Richins also told deputies she left her cellphone in their bedroom and did not take it to her child’s room, the statement said.
But investigators later learned that her phone had been locked and unlocked several times and that it showed movement during the time frame when she said she was in her child’s room, according to the statement. Text messages were sent and received that had been deleted, the statement said.
Summit County sheriff’s deputies said Eric Richins was on the floor at the foot of the bed. Lifesaving measures were attempted, but he was declared dead. An autopsy and a toxicology report found that he died from a fentanyl overdose, according to the probable cause statement.
The medical examiner said that he had five times the lethal dosage of fentanyl in his system and that it was "illicit" fentanyl, not medical-grade. It is also believed he ingested the drugs orally, according to the statement.
It appears she never performed CPR on him as she claimed, the search warrant records said, because of the large amount of blood that came from his mouth.
His family said that Eric Richins never told his wife he had “cut her out of the will” and that the couple were also arguing over buying a $2 million home that she wanted to flip, according to the records.
The family said he was planning to tell her he wasn’t going to sign the papers, but the day after his death, she signed the closing papers on the home, the records said.
After she closed on the home, she invited her friends over for a large party at her home where she was drinking and celebrating, an affidavit for a search warrant said.
During the investigation, authorities learned that Kouri Richins had allegedly contacted an acquaintance identified as "C.L." to obtain pills, the probable cause document said. In one incident, she allegedly asked the acquaintance "for some of the Michael Jackson stuff," it said. (Jackson died in 2009 at his Los Angeles home after having received a lethal dose of propofol.)
"The defendant asked specifically for fentanyl," the statement said. "C.L. contacted a dealer in Ogden on February 11, 2022 and procured 15-30 fentanyl pills from that dealer."
Three days later, Eric Richins became very ill after a Valentine's Day dinner at his home with his wife, the statement said. He believed he had been poisoned and "told a friend that his wife was trying to poison him," it said.
Weeks later, authorities allege, Kouri Richins reached out to her acquaintance again and obtained more pills. Eric Richins died shortly afterward.
'The perfect little life'
A friend who knew Eric Richins for about 20 years recalled being shocked over news that he had died.
"I just would have never thought that was coming. He's not very old and pretty healthy, it seems like," Bruce Capes, 52, of Salt Lake City, said in a phone call Wednesday.
Capes said he talked to his friend quite often, mostly about hunting and trips, and had met Kouri Richins only a few times. He said it looked like the couple had "the perfect little life."
"It seemed like he had the perfect life, like he had everything going for him," Capes said, adding that he's still trying to process the charges against Kouri Richins.
A year after her husband's death, Richins published a book about grief titled “Are You With Me?” to “create peace and comfort for children who have lost a loved one,” according to a description on Amazon. She dedicated the book to "my amazing husband and a wonderful father.” It has since been removed from Amazon.
In an interview with KTVX-TV of Salt Lake City last month, Richins said the death happened "unexpectedly" and "took us all by shock." She said she wrote the book after she saw how her children struggled with their father’s death.
CORRECTION (May 11, 2023, 9:16 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of one of Eric Richins’ friends. He is Bruce Capes, not Capers.