Ariel Robinson, who is best known for winning season 20 of Worst Cooks in America, has been sentenced to life in prison in relation to the death of her 3-year-old foster child, Victoria “Tori” Smith.
The former Food Network star, 30, was found guilty of homicide by child abuse by a jury in Greenville County, South Carolina on Thursday, May 12. After a four day trial, the jury deliberated for less than an hour and a half before returning their verdict, per NBC outlet WYFF. Robinson’s husband, Jerry “Austin” Robinson, pled guilty to aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse last month, and is currently awaiting his sentencing.
Us Weekly has reached out to Ariel’s lawyer and Food Network for comment.
“We just want to thank everyone, from the police to first responders, the nurses, the doctors, [the solicitor] and her team, the jury, everyone, thank you guys so much,” Michelle Urps, a family spokesperson for Smith, said following the verdict.
During a hearing in April, Jerry claimed that his wife beat Smith to death with a belt because she was frustrated with her, testifying that he saw Ariel holding a belt. Prosecutors also stated that he was the one to call 911 when their foster child was unresponsive.
According to authorities, Ariel originally stated claimed that Smith’s brother had “anger issues” and that he was the one who beat her. During her trial, however, the former TV contestant claimed that her husband was to blame for Smith’s death. “I think Austin has one of the scariest types of anger issues because he holds everything in and he doesn’t let it out and when it does come out, it’s too much because he bottles it up,” she said on the stand.
However, prosecutors said evidence proved Ariel was the one who beat the child.
“I think medical testimony in this case was incredibly heartbreaking,” Judge Letitia Verdin said during Ariel’s sentencing, per WYFF. “In my 13, 14 years as a judge, I’ve never seen anything like this, not even approaching it.”
In January 2021, police in Simpsonville, North Carolina received a call about an unresponsive child, according to local news affiliate FOX Carolina. After being transported to a hospital, the child was pronounced dead, and a local coroner later confirmed that she was Smith. The cause of her death was determined to be internal bleeding caused by multiple blunt force injuries.
In the days following her death, Ariel and Jerry were both arrested and charged with homicide by child abuse. Food Network subsequently pulled all of her Worst Cooks in America episodes from all streaming platforms.
“When [Tori] entered a room, all eyes were on her, because she demanded it and she was a cutie,” Tiffany Huggins, one of Smith’s former foster parents, told WYFF in January 2021. “She had the best personality and I’m not just saying that cause I was her momma, but she was just our light. She was a beautiful child, inside and out.”