Ariel Robinson, a former contestant and winner of Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America, was found guilty of homicide by child abuse in the beating death of her 3-year-old foster daughter by a Greenville County, South Carolina jury on Thursday.
It took about an hour-and-a-half for the jury to deliberate and reach their final conviction.
The verdict ended a four-day trial in which Ariel and her husband, Jerry “Austin” Robinson, testified. Graphic images of the injuries inflicted on Victoria “Tori” Smith were also shown in court.
“In my 13-14 years as a judge, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Judge Letitia Verdin said during Ariel’s sentencing. “Not even approaching it.”
Jerry has not yet been sentenced, but pleaded guilty to his role in the death of little Tori in April, and faces a minimum of 10 to 20 years in prison for homicide by child abuse/aiding and abetting.
Ariel and her husband were arrested on Jan. 19 last year in connection to the Jan. 14 death of Smith, who died from blunt force injuries.
The couple was in the process of adopting the little girl and her brothers and, according to authorities, the hearing to finalize the adoption was scheduled for just days after she was killed.
Jerry testified during an April hearing that he walked in to find his wife holding a belt and that she allegedly beat the girl because she was frustrated with her.
“By the time I walked inside, it was as if nothing was going on,” he said.
He added that he saw the bruising as his foster daughter was crying.
“I told her, ‘You went too far this time and I should’ve stopped it,’ ” he said.
During the hearing, Jerry said the girl had thrown up on herself the previous night on her way to church, angering her mother. Ariel’s frustration grew the next morning when Ariel allegedly claimed the girl did not eat her pancakes fast enough, he said.
After that, he said Ariel gave the girl a “whooping” that he could hear from outside of the home.
Jerry later placed the 911 call. Assistant Solicitor Christy Sustakovitch summarized that call in court, saying Jerry reported, “We have an emergency, our daughter is unresponsive. She drank a lot of water. We tried to do CPR to get it out.”
Airel, a former teacher, won $25,000 upon winning the Food Network competition, which pits amateur cooks against each other in a series of cooking challenges overseen by celebrity chefs.
Episodes of her season are no longer available to stream on Food Network’s online platforms, including Discovery+, Hulu and YouTube.
A petition on Change.org with nearly 46,000 signatures calls for South Carolina lawmakers to pass a bill called Victoria’s Law that will reform “the current screening process to become not only an adoptive parent but as a foster parent as well.”
“We want there to be frequent non-scheduled home visits to the foster and adoptive parents and even after adoptions are finalized,” the petition’s description states.”We want Guardian Ad Litem’s and case workers to talk privately with children in these homes so that they have the chance to ask for help if they need it.”
In a Twitter thread posted on Jan 6., Robinson said that while her Black and White children were treated the same in her house, it will “not be the case” when they go out into the real world.
“It’s a shame that as a proud mom to 4 beautiful boys, I can’t protect them from the reality and evil of this world once they leave the house. However, I will fight and use my voice to make a difference. To bring awareness and change so that one day, that change will come,” she continued. “I’m a Mama Bear, & I’ll do anything to protect my children & make sure their futures are equally bright [because] they have the same opportunities & are treated as equals the way God made them. There should be no #whiteprivilege only American privilege. #EqualityforAll #BlackLivesMatte[r].”
Wow. She sounds prejudiced to me and used the little girl as a whipping post for her frustrations. There was no love there for the child. So sad.
How sad, that an adult would vent her frustration on a child. No matter how many times you go to church, if you don’t truly believe, evil can and will prevail. RIP little one, you are better off.
Not often (ever) does a story make me actually cry. This one broke me in finally. I hurt for this poor child how on earth could you so do that. Repeatedly for ffffs sake. Still shook.
I sure hope her new ” roommates” find out what she’s in for and find out fast! And the same thing for her husband! And oh by the way she was not ever a Food Network star as the title of this story says!!! She was a contest winner and nothing more!!