‘This means war:’ Utah grief author Kouri Richins makes first comments since arrest in husband’s fatal poisioning

Kouri Richins, the Utah mother accused of spiking her husband’s cocktail with a fatal dose of fentanyl, made her first comments since she was arrested last year in a series of jailhouse statements that criticized prosecutors, asserted her innocence and described recent upheaval in the case as “forced.”

Richins, 34, a mother of three who wrote a children’s book about grief after her husband died, made the recorded comments to a spokesperson who provided the audio exclusively to “Dateline” this week. Richins has been held in the Summit County Jail, east of Salt Lake City, since a judge denied her bail last year.

“I’ve been silent for a year, locked away from my kids, my family, my life, living with the media telling the world who they think I am, what they think I’ve done or how they think I’ve lived,” she said in one statement. “And it’s time to start speaking up.

“You took an innocent mom away from her babies,” she added. “And this means war.” 

The comments come after a judge granted her lawyers’ request to withdraw from her defense against charges of aggravated murder and other crimes in the death of her husband, Eric Richins, 39, on March 4, 2022.

Kouri and Eric Richins. via Facebook

Richins’ lead attorney, Skye Lazaro, attributed her team’s withdrawal request to an “irreconcilable and nonwaivable situation,” according to a filing in the case Friday.

In one of her statements, Richins said last week that she was filled with “great devastation” and added: “My defense team has been forced to withdraw from my case. Represented or not, we all know and should understand there’s only so much I can say. But what I will say is this withdrawal was not my choice. And it was not a personal choice of any counsel on my defense team.”

Lazaro would not comment to “Dateline” on the withdrawal.

The withdrawal request was filed the day Richins’ lawyers asked a judge to disqualify prosecutors over what they described in a filing as “severe violations” that compromised their defense and violated Richins’ constitutional right to effective counsel.

From May to December of last year, the filing states, authorities recorded jail calls between Richins and her lawyers without their consent. Prosecutors had listened to some of them, the filing alleges.

When one of the defense lawyers discovered the practice and asked prosecutors whether they were aware of it, Summit County’s top elected prosecutor, Margaret Olson, responded, “NO!” according to emails included in the filing.

Minutes later, lead prosecutor Brad Bloodworth wrote that because one of the defense lawyers had refused to use a phone app that shields attorney-client calls, those calls had been recorded and that the lawyer was “well aware of this.”

Bloodworth added that prosecutors had not listened to any of the calls. When the defense team continued to express concern, Bloodworth responded that by not using the app, the lawyer had seemingly consented to the practice — and the defense team had “ratified” it because it had been happening for six months.

Prosecutors had provided the lawyers with the recorded calls through discovery throughout that time period, Bloodworth said in the email.

In one of her statements, Richins accused prosecutors of doing “anything they can to prolong this process and hide their corruption. I will not play into the prosecution’s unconstitutional behavior anymore.”

“Although I am extremely disappointed where we’re at right now with this case, I’m anxious. I’m anxious to prove my innocence. I’m anxious to get to trial,” she said in the statement.

Bloodworth did not respond to requests for comment. In an email, Olson said that since charges were filed against Richins, her office had “deferred to and accommodated” the defendant’s scheduling preferences and requests.

In a statement released Wednesday night, Olson’s office said the defense lawyer’s motion to disqualify prosecutors was “materially inaccurate” and had been “filed in bad faith.”

The statement said the county attorney’s office planned to file a response to the allegations by May 31 and address the motion “at the appropriate times and in the appropriate forums.”

Prosecutors have alleged that Richins was deep in debt and had fraudulently obtained a nearly $2 million life insurance policy on her husband before she gave him a Moscow mule that authorities say was spiked with a lethal dose of fentanyl.

Prosecutors charged Richins this year with an additional count of attempted murder, alleging that she drugged her husband’s Valentine’s Day sandwich in a separate effort to try to kill him. She was also charged with forgery and mortgage and insurance fraud.

Richins has not entered a plea. She and her family have maintained her innocence.

One year after Eric Richins died, Kouri Richins published “Are You With Me?” a children’s book that sought to comfort children who had lost loved ones. She dedicated the book to her “amazing” husband.

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