Fri. May 27th, 2022

A South Carolina jury found 30-year-old Ariel Robinson guilty of homicide by child abuse following a four-day trial that ended with the Simpsonville woman testifying.

Robinson was sentenced Thursday to life in prison, according to Judge Letitia Verdin.

3-year-old Victoria Rose Smith died January 14, 2021, from blunt force injuries and internal bleeding. Robinson, a former Food Network star, was Victoria’s foster mother and charged with homicide by child abuse several days after the death.

Her husband, Jerry Robinson, who called 911, was also charged but pleaded guilty to homicide by child abuse last month.

A jury reached a verdict around 2 p.m. Thursday after Ariel Robinson had testified. They deliberated for just over one hour.

Family of Robinson were seen leaving the courtroom in tears, slamming the door behind them. A loud wail was heard from the stairwell as they left.

Victoria’s biological family said this was the justice they were looking for.

Michelle Urps, the family’s spokesperson, said after sitting through testimony all week, they prepared themselves for all of the autopsy images and body camera footage that was shown.

“We’re just here as representation for Victoria. She was loved,” Urps said.

Prosecution showed a photo of Victoria and her biological siblings and Urps said she just wished that they were photos that they could’ve taken as a family.

“This is the first of it, we just need to know what happens to him (Jerry),” Vickie Phares, a family member of Victoria said after the verdict.

Surveillance footage earlier in the week showed Victoria alive in church with just undergarments on exiting the building.

Phares said it was heartbreaking to see it. Phares said Ariel Robinson took no responsibility.

Earlier in the week, jurors heard testimony from a medical examiner, fire marshal, police officers, church members and family, among others.

Ariel Robinson had walked into the courtroom Thursday morning and smiled at where her family, friends and fellow church members sat waiting. Victoria’s biological family opposite of them wore blue ribbons, which represents child abuse awareness.

She testified Thursday about how it was her idea to adopt Victoria and her two siblings.

When asked about Victoria, Ariel Robinson smiled and then cried. She said Victoria was perfect and that she didn’t have any behavioral issues.

“She was my mini me. She used to talk like me, act like me. She wanted to be everywhere I went,” Ariel Robinson.

In the Robinsons home, they set up cameras because Victoria’s 7-year-old biological brother had “anger issues and would hit her,” Ariel Robinson said. During the time, it was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and Jerry Robinson was working while Ariel Robinson was home with all the children. The cameras were an extra set of eyes and ears for her, she said.

The cameras were only live-streamed, she said.

On Jan. 13, 2021, the day the Robinsons went to church, Ariel Robinson said they were running 15 minutes late as it was about a 25 minute drive to Life Restoration Center.

Victoria was eating a snack in the car and within the rearview mirror, Ariel Robinson saw Victoria stuffing chips and water in her mouth and then she threw up upon getting to church.

Ariel Robinson said she never saw Victoria’s bruising.

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.

Robinson’s attorney William Bouton said over all the medical evidence, he doesn’t disagree with the findings.

The 7-year-old biological brother did not inflict those injuries however he did have a history of aggression and lying, Bouton said.

“Austin (Jerry) 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. He cut a deal, there’s a big difference between 10 years and life in prison,” Bouton said.

Bouton said the case comes down to credibility, and “he said, she said.”

“Who do you believe? Austin or Ariel? One of these two people committed this crime,” Bouton said to the jury.

Jerry Robinson had not been sentenced as of Thursday afternoon.

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born | buffygunner@illicitdeeds.com