Ariel Robinson stands accused of homicide by child abuse in the death of 3-year-old Victoria “Tori” Smith. The child was under the care of Robinson and her husband in a foster program.
The prosecution rested its case Wednesday. Before they did, the jury on Tuesday heard from Austin Robinson, Ariel Robinson’s husband. He gave a tearful account of his wife’s alleged abuse of the child. He has pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse.
He said his wife used a belt on Smith because the young girl was not eating her breakfast pancakes fast enough. The child suffered severe bruising and later died from internal injuries sustained during the beating.
Austin Robinson said on the day of the beating, his wife was heard yelling at the child and he could hear her beating Smith even though he was outside in his yard. He claimed he did not know his wife was hitting the child with a belt until he went inside. The beating allegedly went on for about an hour, he said.
Defense attorney Bill Bouton tried to knock down Austin Robinson’s testimony, getting him to admit that he had often lied to his wife during their 14-year marriage. He acknowledged he lied when he told her he graduated from high school and later earned a GED, even as she threw a party to celebrate. He also fibbed twice about losing a job and pawned items without telling his wife.
Austin Robinson faces 10 to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced at the trial’s end. Homicide by child abuse carries a 25- year-to-life sentence.
The jury also saw bodycam footage on Wednesday taken when first responders arrived on the scene on the day of the incident. The footage showed the child unresponsive on her bedroom floor, covered in bruises.
Ariel Robinson was shown in the footage blaming Smith and herself partly for doing CPR incorrectly. She also blamed Smith’s older brother for some of the bruising.
“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,” said Ariel Robinson on the bodycam footage shown Wednesday.
The Greenville County chief medical examiner told the courtroom that his autopsy showed damage that went far beyond what Ariel Robinson said happened.
“This isn’t what we think of as a traditional bruise of the skin. This is a severe, deep injury that is tearing tissue from tissue,” Dr. Michael Ward said.
Another witness, a pediatric intensive care doctor, said the injuries she saw on Smith were the worst she has seen.
“This is extensive, dependent on a child’s body that was inflicted repetitively by blunt force trauma, which is the worst I’ve seen,” said Dr. Christina Goben.
The defense is expected to rest tomorrow and give the case to the jury by the afternoon.
Ariel Robinson was a winner of Season 20 of Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America. When news of her arrest broke, the network yanked the episodes of her competition from all of its platforms.