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It only took an hour for a South Carolina jury to convict former Food Network reality show contestant Ariel Robinson for fatally beating her 3-year-old foster daughter, causing injuries so severe one doctor testified the trauma was “the worst I’ve seen.”
Ariel Robinson was found guilty of homicide by child abuse and sentenced to life in prison Thursday afternoon for the death of 3-year-old Victoria “Tori” Smith after Judge Letitia H. Verdin said the severity of the abuse warranted nothing else, according to WYFF.
“I can say that in my 13, 14 years of being a judge, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Verdin said. “Not even approaching it.”
The 3-year-old Smith died on Jan. 14, 2021 from blunt force trauma and internal bleeding.
Robinson’s husband Jerry — also referred to as Austin Robinson — pleaded guilty last month to aiding abetting homicide by child abuse. He testified during the four-day trial that his wife killed their 3-year-old foster daughter by beating her with a belt because she had been upset that Smith was eating her pancakes too slowly, Deadline reports.
He testified that he had been outside in his yard that day when he heard his wife yelling and beating the child, which he estimated lasted for about an hour.
He said that he didn’t realize she was using a belt to carry out the beating until he went back inside the home.
He later called 911.
Jurors were shown body camera footage of emergency responders arriving at the couple’s Simpsonville home to find Smith covered in bruises and unresponsive lying on her bedroom floor, WSPA reports.
Ariel is seen telling authorities that the bruises covering her foster daughter were caused by Smith herself. She also said they could have been the result of her incorrectly performing CPR or from Smith’s older brother, who she claimed had been violent.
“He will hit her with a shoe, he’ll find one of Austin’s belts, a hanger. Anything that is around because he is angry,” she said.
However, during the trial, Greenville County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Ward testified that the type of bruising on the body wasn’t a “traditional bruise” but had been caused by a “severe, deep injury that is tearing tissue from tissue.”
Dr. Christina Goben, a pediatric intensive care doctor, also called the trauma “the worst I’ve seen.”
On the stand Thursday, Ariel testified that she had wanted to adopt Smith — who she called her “mini-me” — and her two siblings and described her as a perfect child, who always followed her around and had no behavioral issues, according to The Greenville News.
Ariel tried to shift the blame to her husband, who she said had “one of the scariest types of anger issues.” She said Jerry often kept his anger bottled up inside until it could no longer be contained. She testified that he had lied throughout the marriage.
Prosecutors said the evidence in the case, however, pointed to Ariel as the one who killed Smith.
In his closing argument, Robinson’s attorney William Bouton once again tried to shift blame to Jerry, who has yet to be sentenced for his role in the crime.
“Austin Robinson sat in confinement and thought about it, got a lawyer and reached out said he’s gonna make a deal. That’s what he did,” Bouton said, adding that the case came down to a “he said/she said” version of events.
It didn’t take long for a jury to conclude that Ariel had been the one responsible for killing Smith.
After the verdict was handed down, Michelle Urps, a spokesman for the Smith’s biological family, said the family had attended the trial to represent the slain 3-year-old.
“She was loved,” she said.
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