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Grief Book Author’s Mom Probed After Separate ‘Suspicious’ Overdose Death: Affidavit

The mother of a Utah woman charged in her husband’s overdose death after penning a children’s book about grief also lost a romantic partner due to a “suspicious” drug overdose, a newly unsealed search warrant affidavit shows.

Kouri Richins’ mother, Lisa Darden, was subjected to a phone search last year after a detective investigating Eric Richins’ 2022 death discovered the similar overdose in 2006, according to the affidavit filed in Summit County in May of last year.

“Based on Lisa Darden’s proximity to her partner’s suspicious overdose death, and her relationship with Kouri, it is possible she was involved in planning and orchestrating Eric’s death,” Summit County Sheriff Detective Jeff O’Driscoll stated with the request to search Darden’s phone records.

Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband and then wrote a children's book about grieving, is seen in court in November.
Kouri Richins, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband and then wrote a children's book about grieving, is seen in court in November. via Associated Press

Law enforcement officials refused to comment on where the investigation stands today, including whether Darden is a suspect or person of interest.A representative with the sheriff’s department said Tuesday that the case has been turned over to state prosecutors and directed all media inquiries to the Summit County Attorney’s Office. The prosecutor declined to comment.

In 2006, Darden was living with a woman and was named the beneficiary of her estate “a short time” before the woman died from an oxycodone overdose in April of that year, according to O’Driscoll.

The woman, who was not identified, did have prescriptions for oxycodone and reportedly struggled with abusing her medications, but O’Driscoll said that based on his “training and experience,” he had ruled out the possibility of an accidental overdose.

Richins’ attorney, Skye Lazaro, said the 2006 death was nothing more than a tragedy.

“The fact that Ms. Darden’s significant other was one of the millions that suffered from, and ultimately succumbed to, opioid addiction is hardly ‘suspicious.’ It is tragic, and unfortunately, quite common,” Lazaro said in a statement to HuffPost.

In addition to the similar death, O’Driscoll said they uncovered conversations on Richins’ phone that revealed Darden had “disdain” for her son-in-law, Eric.

Eric Richins, whose house is pictured, died after consuming about five times the lethal dosage of fentanyl, an autopsy found.
Eric Richins, whose house is pictured, died after consuming about five times the lethal dosage of fentanyl, an autopsy found. via Associated Press

The mother and daughter were extremely close, talking nearly daily on the phone, the detective said.

Not all of Richins’ conversations were clearly known, however, as an earlier search warrant allegedly found that several text messages had been deleted from her phone over 15 days in “the time surrounding Eric’s death,” O’Driscoll noted.

Richins said she had been celebrating the closing of a house for her real estate business with her husband shortly before he was found unresponsive on March 4, 2022, authorities previously said.

She allegedly said she had served him a Moscow mule cocktail and then found him cold to the touch and called 911. An autopsy determined that he died from consuming about five times the lethal dosage of fentanyl.

A woman identified as the family’s housekeeper later admitted to twice supplying the mother of three with 15 to 30 fentanyl pills about one month before Eric’s death, O’Driscoll said in the affidavit.

“She provided details of the solicitation of the drugs, the pickup and drop-off locations, and other pertinent details that has been corroborated with digital forensic evidence,” O’Driscoll said.

Richins took out major life insurance policies on her husband, with benefits totaling nearly $2 million, shortly before his death, prosecutors said.

Richins went on to publish an illustrated children’s book with her children that was titled “Are You With Me?” The book, which featured a cover drawing of an angel resembling her late husband, was written to help comfort her sons, she said in a TV interview promoting it.

“It’s just comforting to them to know that they’re not living this life alone,” she said. “Dad is still here. It’s just in a different way.”

Richins remains behind bars on charges of aggravated murder and three counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

She also faces a charge of witness tampering after prosecutors said authorities found a letter directed to her mother in her jail cell in September. She also faces a domestic violence assault charge after allegedly punching her sister-in-law in 2022, according to Salt Lake City station KSL-TV.

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