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Utah mom accused of poisoning husband and writing book about grief made moves to "profit from his passing," lawsuit claims

Utah mom accused of poisoning her husband
Utah mom who wrote children's book about grief charged in husband's poisoning death 05:42

A lawsuit against a Utah woman who wrote a children's book about coping with grief after her husband's death and now stands accused of his fatal poisoning was filed Tuesday, seeking over $13 million in damages for alleged financial wrongdoing before and after his death.

The lawsuit was filed against Kouri Richins in state court by Katie Richins-Benson, the sister of Kouri Richins' late husband Eric Richins. It accuses the woman of taking money from the husband's bank accounts, diverting money intended to pay his taxes and obtaining a fraudulent loan, among other things, before his death in March 2022.

Kouri Richins has been charged with murder in her late husband's death.

"Kouri committed the foregoing acts in calculated, systematic fashion and for no reason other than to actualize a horrific endgame - to conceal her ruinous debt, misappropriate assets for the benefit of her personal businesses, orchestrate Eric's demise, and profit from his passing," the lawsuit said.

Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband then wrote a children's book about grieving, looks on during a bail hearing June 12, 2023, in Park City, Utah.
Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband then wrote a children's book about grieving, looks on during a bail hearing June 12, 2023, in Park City, Utah. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

An email message sent to Kouri Richins' attorney, Skye Lazaro, was not immediately returned on Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Kouri Richins, 33, poisoned Eric Richins, 39, by slipping five times the lethal dose of fentanyl into a Moscow mule cocktail she made for him.

The mother of three later self-published a children's book titled "Are You with Me?" about a deceased father watching over his sons.

In Richins' book, the boy wonders if his father, who has died, notices his goals at a soccer game, his nerves on the first day of school or the presents he found under a Christmas tree.

"Yes, I am with you," an angel-wing-clad father figure wearing a trucker hat responds. "I am with you when you scored that goal. ... I am with you when you walk the halls. ... I'm here and we're together."

Months before her arrest, Richins told news outlets that she decided to write "Are You With Me?" after her husband unexpectedly died last year, leaving her widowed and raising three boys. She said she looked for materials for children on grieving loved ones and found few resources, so decided to create her own. She planned to write sequels.

"I just wanted some story to read to my kids at night and I just could not find anything," she told Good Things Utah about a month before her arrest.

CBS affiliate KUTV reported the dedication section of the book reads: "Dedicated to my amazing husband and a wonderful father."

According to the 48-page lawsuit, Kouri Richins "began having serious financial troubles" in 2016 and started stealing money from her husband. In 2020, "Eric learned that Kouri had withdrawn" more than $200,000 from his bank accounts and that she had charged over $30,000 on his credit cards, the suit says.

"Eric confronted Kouri about the stolen money and Kouri admitted she had taken the money," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also seeks to bar Richins from selling the book and to turn over any money made from it, saying it makes references to events and details from Eric Richins' life and his relationship with his children.

In the criminal case, the defense has argued that prosecutors "simply accepted" the narrative from Eric Richins' family that his wife had poisoned him "and worked backward in an effort to support it," spending about 14 months investigating and not finding sufficient evidence to support their theory. Lazaro has said the prosecution's case based on Richins' financial motives proved she was "bad at math," not that she was guilty of murder.

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