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Utah judge to decide if author of children's book on grief will face trial in her husband's death

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Utah judge to decide if author of children's book on grief will face trial in her husband's death


PARK CITY, Utah — A Utah woman who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband, then published a children’s book about coping with grief, will appear in court Wednesday for a hearing that will determine whether state prosecutors have enough evidence against her to proceed with a trial.

Kouri Richins, 33, faces several felony charges for allegedly killing her husband with a lethal dose of fentanyl in March 2022 at their home in a small mountain town near Park City. Prosecutors say she slipped five times the lethal dose of the synthetic opioid into a Moscow mule cocktail that Eric Richins, 39, drank.

She previously tried to kill him with a spiked sandwich on Valentine’s Day, charging documents allege.

In the months leading up to her arrest in May 2023, the mother of three self-published the children’s book “Are You with Me?” about a father with angel wings watching over his young son after passing away. The book could play a key role for prosecutors in framing the crime as a calculated murder with an elaborate cover-up attempt.

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Both the defense and prosecution plan to call on witnesses and introduce evidence to help shape their narratives in the case. Utah state Judge Richard Mrazik is expected to decide after the hearing whether the state has presented sufficient evidence to go forward with a trial.

Witnesses could include other family members, a housekeeper who claims to have sold Kouri Richins the drugs and friends of Eric Richins who have recounted phone conversations from the day prosecutors say he was first poisoned by his wife of nine years.

Defense attorney Skye Lazaro has argued that the evidence against her client is dubious and circumstantial. Lazaro has suggested the housekeeper had motivation to lie as she sought leniency in the face of drug charges, and that Eric Richins’ sisters had a clear bias against her client amid a battle over his estate and a concurrent assault case.

A petition filed by his sister, Katie Richins, alleges Kouri Richins had financial motives for killing her husband as prosecutors say she had opened life insurance policies totaling nearly $2 million without his knowledge and mistakenly believed she would inherit his estate under terms of their prenuptial agreement.

Kouri Richins was found guilty on misdemeanor charges Monday of assaulting her other sister-in-law shortly after her husband’s death. Amy Richins told the judge that Kouri Richins had punched her in the face during an argument over access to her brother’s safe.

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In addition to aggravated murder, assault and drug charges, Kouri Richins has been charged with mortgage fraud, forgery and insurance fraud for allegedly forging loan applications and fraudulently claiming insurance benefits after her husband’s death.



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Wealthy Utah landowners suddenly cut off access to world renowned river as they go to war with fishermen trespassing on their land for the last decade

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Wealthy Utah landowners suddenly cut off access to world renowned river as they go to war with fishermen trespassing on their land for the last decade


Landowners are blocking public access to a renowned river known for its fishing – because of anglers they say are trespassing on their property by standing in the river to cast.

The controversy surrounds a stretch of the Lower Provo River in Utah, some 50 miles from Salt Lake City.

There, fishermen have operated undeterred for years, due to a 2010 statute that allowed them to float on rivers but forbade them from setting foot on the riverbeds.

But law enforcement in Wasatch County rarely enforce that stipulation – spurring people like Steve Ault, a relative of a former governor who owns 3,000 acres along the river, to formally request a shift in the county line so his property sits elsewhere.

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In interviews administered both this and last week, the 70-year-old complained about fishermen repeatedly accessing his land, and a lack of law enforcement he said is to blame.

Scroll down for video: 

The controversy surrounds a stretch of the Lower Provo River in Utah , some 50 miles from Salt Lake City. There, fishermen have operated undeterred for years, due to a 2010 statute that allowed them to float on rivers but forbade them from setting foot on the riverbeds.

But law enforcement in Wasatch County rarely enforce that stipulation - spurring people like Steve Ault, a relative of a former governor who owns 3,000 acres along the river, to formally request a shift in the county line so his property sits elsewhere

But law enforcement in Wasatch County rarely enforce that stipulation – spurring people like Steve Ault, a relative of a former governor who owns 3,000 acres along the river, to formally request a shift in the county line so his property sits elsewhere

He’s trying to shift the county line such that his property resides in Utah County — not Wasatch — with hopes that county’s Sheriff’s Office will do something about it.

Speaking to both The Salt Lake Tribune and Fox 13, he said he does not necessarily mind people fishing on his land – he just wants to charge them an access fee.

‘If you take [a state coalition that won a legal battle for public access to the river in 2017], and apply this to any other private property owner, you wouldn’t want people in your backyard and have a right to be there,’ Ault told the Tribune. 

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‘You would never allow someone to walk through your yard to get to a gate that goes to a park, right?’  he said, slamming the Utah Stream Access Coalition as ‘the Utah Socialist Access Coalition.

‘But that’s a very similar situation here.’ 

‘We can own property here, and we can have businesses, and we can do things that they can’t in other parts of the world, and yet,’ he continued, 

‘[But] there’s groups and individuals that would take that away.’

Ault is the brother-in-law to former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who served as the 17th governor of the red state from 2009 to 2021.

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Speaking to both The Salt Lake Tribune and Fox 13 , he said he does not necessarily mind people fishing on his land - he just wants to charge them an access fee

Speaking to both The Salt Lake Tribune and Fox 13 , he said he does not necessarily mind people fishing on his land – he just wants to charge them an access fee

During his tenure, the Utah Stream Access Coalition won a suit against the state – one that found that this particular stretch of river was ‘navigable’ and thus public, due to local laws. 

By the state’s definition, ‘navigable’ means a waterway that is large enough to be used to transport goods and people, which the coalition believes it is.

The Utah divisions of Forestry, Fire and State Lands and Wildlife Resources, however, has yet to confirm their belief – a hindrance compounded by the fact the state last year passed a law that would punish anglers who access rivers that run through private land.

But that’s only if local officials actually enforce the law – something Ault says is not happening.

Instead, he said he’s been force to post ‘no trespassing’ signs about his sprawling property, despite living in a home dozens of miles away.

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To ensure no one is getting the best of him, he has hired a security guard – one he said finds his signs trashed just about every week, tattered and in need of a replacement.

He further claimed to the Tribune that the guard also routinely finds trash left behind by people they suspect are anglers, due to the the abundance of trout in the area, and the fact that the route that straddles the river is somewhat less traveled.

Ault is the brother-in-law to former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who served as the 17th governor of the red state from 2009 to 2021

Ault is the brother-in-law to former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who served as the 17th governor of the red state from 2009 to 2021

To ensure no one is getting the best of him, Ault said he has hired a security guard - one he said finds his signs trashed just about every week, tattered and in need of a replacement. Pictured, a fisherman standing in the river to cast, which is technically illegal

To ensure no one is getting the best of him, Ault said he has hired a security guard – one he said finds his signs trashed just about every week, tattered and in need of a replacement. Pictured, a fisherman standing in the river to cast, which is technically illegal

It’s even more empty now, after a Utah Department of Transportation contractor razed hundreds of trees last year to make room for a state-sanctioned trail that has yet to be built.

In an interview with the local Fox affiliate this past Wednesday, Ault said he has taken issue with this as well – claiming to own portions of the property that were dug up.

‘It’s the worst, in my opinion, one of the worst environmental disasters this state has ever seen,’ Ault told the outlet. 

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Recalling how he was ‘in shock’ after stumbling across the demolition, he said it had been his for almost forty years.

‘We own the land underneath the railroad tracks up to the edge of the highway,’ he said, pointing across the river. ‘We own 1,4000 acres that way.’

The land in question, however, is the state’s property, right outside his purview. 

That said, a 3.5 mile-gap between two trail networks it was meant to link remains, as construction has been called off due to the a litany of suits over who decides access to certain areas of the river, including a contested ‘fisherman’s easement’.

The easement applies to one side of the waterway, while another questions the railroad route on the other.

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Both are being contested, with the latter seeing the trail project temporarily called off. 

Complicating matters, though, is a successful suit from the Utah Stream Access Coalition  against the state, which found that this particular stretch of river was 'navigable' and thus public, due to local laws

Complicating matters, though, is a successful suit from the Utah Stream Access Coalition  against the state, which found that this particular stretch of river was ‘navigable’ and thus public, due to local laws

Ault told the Salt Lake Tribune that his hired guard also routinely finds trash left behind by people they suspect are anglers, due to the the abundance of trout in the area, and the fact the area is relatively less traveled

Ault told the Salt Lake Tribune that his hired guard also routinely finds trash left behind by people they suspect are anglers, due to the the abundance of trout in the area, and the fact the area is relatively less traveled

The gap won’t be filled unless the court rules in UDOT’s favor, but Ault views it as a victory.

Gesturing to now naked section of the river where ‘spectacular pines and quaking aspen and just big, big old trees’ once grew, he said he is considering a lawsuit, but the damage is already done.

‘It will take ten generations before it is ever even close to looking the same,’ he told Fox 13.

Now, he’s turned his attention to the controversy surrounding public river access, hoping to protect the land from further desecration.

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He said the uncertainty stems largely from the Wasatch County attorney’s office, which prosecutes cases in the area.

They issued a statement this week saying the courts haven’t decided whether anglers accessing the land is technically trespassing, pointing to the multiple ongoing lawsuits. 

The county office still looks at cases individually on their own merits, the statement noted, saying that if cops and officials produce sufficient evidence, they would charge trespassers.

It's even more empty now, after a Utah Department of Transportation contractor razed hundreds of trees last year to make room for a state-sanctioned trail that has yet to be built, which was called off when people like Ault questioned its legality

It’s even more empty now, after a Utah Department of Transportation contractor razed hundreds of trees last year to make room for a state-sanctioned trail that has yet to be built, which was called off when people like Ault questioned its legality

Ault's request to redraw the county lines, meanwhile, has yet to be heard, as the state project remains in limbo

Ault’s request to redraw the county lines, meanwhile, has yet to be heard, as the state project remains in limbo

‘Wasatch County takes its responsibility to uphold the law very seriously,’ the office told The Tribune. 

‘However,’ they added, ‘we also take our ethical responsibility to not prosecute persons who may not be violating the law very seriously.’ 

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Meanwhile, the state Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands hired a river analyst  tasked with settling such disputes six years ago, but the Tribune reported that person has since been relieved.

In the meantime, now such determinations have been made, and the shores lining the stretch of the Lower Provo river remain marred either by unfinished construction or trash from visitors, Ault said. 

Layne Edwards, who owns Park City Fly Fishing Guides, said this has left people from both sides frustrated, with no swift solution in sight.

“We have folks that are paying us to take them on a guided trip, and we have a responsibility to provide them with a positive experience,” Edwards told the Tribune, noting how his agency has not had any clients seek a tour along the river in more than a year.

‘And the last thing that I would want our guests to experience would be a bunch of negative energy.

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He blamed the ‘no trespassing’ signs put up by property owners like Ault, and the ensuing conflicts it created between anglers and property owners. 

Ault’s request to redraw the county lines, meanwhile, has yet to be heard, as the state project – like local fishermen’s rights – remains in limbo.

DailyMail.com has reached out to the Wasatch County Attorney for comment and further clarification on the current situation.

 

 

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Opinion: I warned Utah about our nominating system 10 years ago. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.

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Opinion: I warned Utah about our nominating system 10 years ago. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.


It has spiraled down into little more than a platform for the political malcontented to rage and roar against the moderate Republican establishment.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox gets a mixed reaction at the Utah Republican Nominating Convention in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 27, 2024.

While it might be understandable that Gov. Spencer Cox recently expressed his desire to maintain the caucus-convention pathway to Republican nominations, those of us who have gone around and around on this issue know that what the caucus-convention pathway is producing in no way benefits Utah.

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What went on at the recent Utah Republican Party convention was shameful and an embarrassment. Yet, none of the ill-mannered behavior should have been unexpected. It is, undoubtedly, a direct result of the passage of SB54 during Utah’s 2014 legislative general session. The chickens are now simply coming home to roost.

I was one of only seven Utah state senators in 2014 who voted against SB54 and warned at that time: “The two factions through their candidates will rage and roar at each other, one declaring it represents ‘the people’ and the other declaring it represents ‘true Republicans.’”

I was convinced then and I remain convinced today that SB54 would do nothing to ameliorate the more extreme elements of the Utah Republican Party as it proposed to do. I was persuaded that, with the segregation of signature-gatherers from caucus-convention goers, resulting from SB54, the moderating influence on the growing populist far-right within the Republican Party would be lost forever.

Frankly, it was completely predictable the segregated factions would further clash with each other. The moderate Republican establishment pushing for SB54 sent a message to the populist far-right that they were less than and had to be checked — to be put in their place.

Should anyone be surprised when moderate governors and other moderate office seekers and holders get yelled at and voted against at the Republican convention? The moderate Republican establishment deployed its full force to render the populists far-right ineffectual by trying to isolate it, and all it accomplished was to further intensify resentments.

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The establishment had three choices: 1. Fully embrace the populist far-right with an objective to influence it through actually working the caucus-convention system; 2. Kill the caucus-convention system all together through the proposed ballot initiative in 2014 that would have done away with the caucus/convention system in favor of a direct primary; or 3. Keep the caucus-convention system with a signature-gathering work around through SB54 as a compromise to save the caucus/convention path, intended to segregate and thereby check the influence of the growing populist far-right.

The establishment, ultimately seeking compromise by preserving the caucus-convention system, chose the worst of the three alternatives and now all of Utah has to live with regular Republican intra-party exhibitions of extreme polarization in Utah.

The moderate Republican establishment decided it was beneath it and an expense of too much effort to aggressively work the caucus-convention system to unite the party. And so then, the intensifying rage demonstrated from 2014 to the recent Republican convention is nothing less than a response to the establishment’s demonstrated elitism.

And frankly, the way Gov. Cox patronized the angry convention crowd did not help the situation. He only confirmed the establishment thinks it is better than the populist far-right — making certain the conflict and contention continues — spreading a spirit of scorn and continual contention throughout Utah.

In an effort to retract that spreading scorn and continual contention, I believe the Utah State Senate would pass legislation to end both the caucus-convention and signature-gathering paths for a single direct path to qualify for party primaries. The House, on the other hand, will be reluctant to give up the caucus-convention path, which has more sway with house representatives who are up for election every two years.

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If there is in fact resistance on the part of the Legislature, there is an alternative option for a public initiative that will propose a direct primary election process — an alternative that would likely be successful. Nevertheless, for right now, both the legislative and public initiative alternatives should earnestly be considered and discussed.

In 2014, as a Utah state senator, I was a determined and outspoken defender of the caucus-convention process. Today, I am convinced it no longer productively serves Utah. Unfortunately, it has spiraled down into little more than a platform for the political malcontented to rage and roar against the moderate Republican establishment and those not obsequious to Donald Trump and his vitriol.

Besides it being a shameful and embarrassing display of discord and disruption, the caucus-convention process is producing nominated candidates hardly acceptable to Republican primary voters, whose interests the party is supposed to represent. While the work-around signature-gathering compromise has indeed ensured the nomination and election of some moderate candidates, it has not in any way moderated the caucus-convention nominations, nor the polarizing hostilities within the Republican Party.

On the contrary, it has enflamed the discontent and discord between the two Republican factions — spilling out of the doors of the caucuses and convention — spreading hate throughout Utah and radicalizing certain elements to revolt.

It is unfortunate that Gov. Cox and too many others cannot discern where all this is heading. Delaying, doing nothing, will not be good for the Republican Party, Utah and especially its rising generations, who inevitably are infected by the conflict and contention spread by their elders.

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Stuart C. Reid is a former Republican Utah state senator.

The Salt Lake Tribune is committed to creating a space where Utahns can share ideas, perspectives and solutions that move our state forward. We rely on your insight to do this. Find out how to share your opinion here, and email us at voices@sltrib.com.



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Utah veterans think of friends while preparing for honor flight

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Utah veterans think of friends while preparing for honor flight


Monday was a special Memorial Day for more than 70 Utah war veterans who are preparing for an honor flight on Tuesday.

Many of those veterans, including two who spoke with KSL TV, were focused on the sacrifices their good friends made. They said it will mean a lot to them to see those friends’ names on memorial walls.

For those who didn’t live through it, it may be a time that is difficult to imagine now. There was a war, a draft and people like Quinn McKay didn’t think twice about enlisting in the armed forces at the age of 17.

“I, at that time, didn’t know they had the atom bomb,” McKay said. “So I thought the war would last two or three years.”

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He honored family Monday at the Huntsville Cemetery while preparing to honor those who never made it home.

“Our company was assigned to go down to the South Pacific where they were fighting their last battles of World War Two,” McKay said. He was one of a handful who were pulled off that assignment for additional training at the last minute and he said there was more than an 80% casualty rate for those who went on to do the fighting.

“Every time I think of Memorial Day, I think of that experience,” he said.

Jose Archuleta doesn’t talk about what he saw in the service in the Vietnam War.

“I have family that have never asked. They don’t ask,” he said.

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Archuleta also enlsited in the Marines at 17. He said it was a chance to get away from difficult farm life for young people like him.

“We had a job to do. There was no political lines, no religion lines, no race barriers,” he said. “We was Americans.”

The honor flight means a lot to him, to see names on a wall, including those who served along him. He said it’s hard to completely understand unless you’ve been there.

“Sometimes I’m back there … Like they say, you never leave.”

The 73 veterans, mostly from the Vietnam War, will leave from the Provo airport at approximately 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. The honor flights are to help veterans experience the memorials that were built to honor them.

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