GREENVILLE, S.C. — A South Carolina woman who won the Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” competition last year was convicted of homicide by child abuse on Thursday after a four-day trial.
Ariel Robinson, 30, of Simpsonville, was sentenced to life in prison, the Greenville News reported. She was convicted in the death of her 3-year-old foster child, Victoria Rose Smith, the newspaper reported. Smith died on Jan. 14, 2021, from blunt force injuries and internal bleeding.
A jury took less than 90 minutes to reach a verdict, WHNS-TV reported.
Prosecutors said Robinson severely beat the child with a belt, causing her to suffer internal bleeding, according to the television station.
Jerry Robinson, who called 911, pleaded guilty to homicide by child abuse last month. He is facing a sentence of 10 years to 20 years, according to the television station.
The Food Network pulled the 20th season of its “Worst Cooks in America” program after Ariel Robinson was arrested, according to the Los Angeles Times. The “Worst Cooks” season featuring Robinson, who won $25,000, is no longer available to stream on Discovery+, Hulu or YouTube, and episode recaps featuring that season’s contestants have been removed from the Food Network’s website, according to the newspaper.
Ariel Robinson took the stand in her own defense on Thursday, telling jurors she had “a good relationship” with the child.
“She was my ‘mini me.’ She would talk like me, act like me,” Ariel Robinson testified. She wanted to go everywhere I went.”
The family set up cameras in their home because Smith’s 7-year-old biological brother had “anger issues and would hit her,” Ariel Robinson testified.
Prosecutors said that on Jan. 13, 2021, Smith was eating a snack in a vehicle as the family headed to church and the child vomited, the News reported.
During closing arguments, Assistant Solicitor Christy Sustakovitch said Ariel Robinson “lost it” and that she was guilty.
“The evidence is clear, and if you believe her, she failed to act,” Sustakovitch said.
William Bouton, who represented Ariel Robinson, said that he does not disagree with the findings, adding that while Smith’s brother had a history of aggression and lying, he did not hurt his sister, the News reported.
“Austin (Jerry) Robinson sat in confinement and thought about it, got a lawyer and reached out said he’s gonna make a deal,” Bouton told jurors. “That’s what he did. He cut a deal, there’s a big difference between 10 years and life in prison.”
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