The one-time winner of the Food Network show ‘Worst Cooks in America’ was found guilty of homicide by child abuse and sentenced to life in prison on Thursday.
Ariel Robinson, 30, of Greenville, South Carolina, was found guilty after jurors deliberated for an hour and a half following a four-day trial.
Robinson and her husband Jerry, 35, were arrested in 2021 after the death of their three-year-old foster daughter, Victoria Rose Smith. In April Jared pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse.
Police found Victoria unresponsive after responding to a 9-11 call at the Robinson’s house on January 14, 2021. Robinson claimed at the time that the toddler ‘went limp’ after ingesting an excess of liquids, and that she thought the girl had choked.
Ariel Robinson, 30, was found guilty of homicide by child abuse in South Carolina on Thursday
Robinson (left) was sentenced to life in prison for beating her three-year-old foster child, Victoria Smith (right), to death in 2021
When asked about other bruises found all over the toddler’s body, Ariel allegedly blamed Victoria’s brother, who the Robinsons also fostered and claimed had ‘anger issues’.
Prosecutors argued that Robinson had in fact fatally beaten Victoria that night.
Greenville County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Ward testified on Wednesday that the child was beaten so severely that her blood vessels burst. He said that the blood that subsequently collected in her muscles and body fat may have killed her.
‘If we lose enough blood, the heart doesn’t have enough volume to pump,’ Ward said.
Jerry Robinson later told authorities that the fatal beating was spurned by an incident the day before, when Victoria vomited on the way to church and angered Ariel.
Ariel (left) and her husband Jared Robinson (right). Jerry to pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse in April
The Robinsons were arrested in 2021 when authorities responding to a 911 call at their South Carolina home found Victoria (above) unresponsive. At the time Ariel said the girl had choked
Two witnesses, Jean Smith and Avery Santiago, testified on Wednesday that they saw Ariel washing Victoria’s dress in the church bathroom that day. Asking if the child was sick, Robinson told Smith ‘[The girl] eats too much and makes herself throw up. [It’] a game.’
Santiago testified that she heard Ariel telling Victoria ‘Oh, you’re cold. You’re cold. Girls that make themselves throw up deserve to be cold,’ FOX Carolina reported.
‘I was frustrated,’ Ariel testified on Thursday when asked about the incident at the church.
It was not the first time Ariel had lost her temper over Victoria’s eating habits, according to Jerry, who testified that his wife would beat the child with a wooden paddle or a belt.
Ariel Robinson (left) in court for the killing of Victoria Smith. Her trial lasted four days
Jurors deliberated for an hour and a half before finding Robinson guilty. Experts testified that Victoria was beatEN so badly that her blood vessels burst and blood filled her muscles
‘Sometimes I’d take a piece of [her] food just to help her out,’ he testified.
Ariel teared up talking about Victoria on the stand on Thursday, describing her as ‘a perfect child.’
‘We had a good relationship,’ Ariel said, according to FOX Carolina’s Maya Ruiz, ‘She was my mini-me.’
Ruiz reported that Robinson said ‘he’s lying,’ when asked about her husband’s statements.
Before her homicide arrest, Ariel was known for winning season 20 of the Food Network show ‘Worst Cooks in America’ in 2020, and receiving a $25,000 cash prize.
Ariel Robinson won a $25,000 grand prize after competing the Food Network show ‘Worst Cooks’ in America in 2020
She and her husband Jerry have two children of their own, and began fostering Victoria and her two brothers, aged five and seven, in 2020.
Victoria’s biological great aunt, Michelle Urps, blames social workers for not paying proper attention to the situation.
She says she noticed possible bruises and markings on Victoria’s body in pictures Ariel had uploaded to social media.
‘I knew something was wrong by looking at her social media so why couldn’t they?’ Urps told DailyMail.com last year.
‘You have to question, do these case workers have the right training? Is the screening process adequate? Are they looking in the right places?’ she said.
Urps started a petition on the Change.org website calling on state lawmakers to pass a bill called ‘Victoria’s Law’ which would reform the South Carolina Department of Social Services. The petition currently has nearly 46,000 signatures.