Jury: Food Network star guilty in foster child’s death
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — The winner of a Food Network cooking show competition has been found guilty in the beating death last year of a 3-year-old foster child in her care.
The jury deliberated for about an hour before delivering the unanimous verdict Thursday against Ariel Robinson, 30, of Simpsonville, news outlets reported. She made no comment before Judge Letitia Verdin sentenced her to life in prison on a charge of homicide by child abuse.
“In my 13-14 years as a judge, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Verdin said. “Not even approaching it.”
Verdin acknowledged Robinson’s attorney’s statement that his client snapped but asked, “Why let this child suffer?”
Victoria “Tori” Smith died Jan. 14, 2021, in Robinson’s home after suffering blows to her legs and abdomen because she did not eat her pancakes fast enough. The child died from blunt force injuries and internal bleeding, officials said.
Robinson was the winner of Season 20 of “Worst Cooks in America” on Food Network.
The child’s biological family cried and hugged one another after court was dismissed.
“Praise God,” said Vickie Phares, the toddler’s biological great-grandmother. “Justice was served for our baby.”
Robinson and her husband, Austin Robinson, had custody of the little girl and her two older biological brothers for 10 months and were scheduled to adopt them the week after Victoria died.
Austin Robinson pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse last month. He faces up to 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.
He testified that his wife beat the child with a belt. Medical evidence showed she died when blood pooled in her body and could not get to her brain.