Bond hearing reveals what ‘Worst Cooks in America’ winner claimed led to 3-year-old foster child’s death

Updated: Feb. 12, 2021 at 9:02 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - A bond hearing Friday morning revealed what Simpsonville resident and “Worst Cooks in America” TV show winner Ariel Robinson claims happened before her 3-year-old foster child passed away, and the much different version of events that her husband later gave investigators.

Ariel Robinson appeared before a judge virtually Friday morning. She and her husband, Jerry Robinson, who did not appear in court, are charged with homicide by child abuse in the death of 3-year-old Victoria Rose Smith.

The toddler suffered from extensive injuries, including deep purple bruising on her abdomen, bruising on her ear, abrasions on her face, bruising down her back, and bruising up and down both legs after her death on January 14, prosecutors told the judge. The coroner ruled that the child died from blunt force trauma, but prosecutors said Ariel had told first responders she believed the girl had drowned from drinking too much water.

Prosecutors revealed during the hearing that Ariel claimed Victoria, referred to as Tori, was having stomach issues after eating something and then drinking several cups of water. Ariel claims the child suddenly went limp and that she began attempting to perform the Heimlich maneuver on the child, fearing that she was choking. Ariel also claimed she started pressing on the girl’s stomach, which likely caused the bruising to the abdomen, as she asked Jerry to call 911.

When asked about the bruises to the other parts of Tori’s body, Ariel reportedly told them that the child’s 7-year-old brother, who was also in the Robinson’s care along with another sibling, had anger issues and caused those injuries. Prosecutors said they asked the boy’s principal if the child boy had anger issues, and the principal reportedly told them he was a happy child who never showed any outward signs of aggression.

Prosecutors also revealed that, days after the couple was arrested, Jerry Robinson gave investigators a much different account of what happened. In a two-hour interview with investigators, prosecutors said Jerry told them that Tori’s injuries were from being hit by a belt at the hands of Ariel. Jerry reportedly told investigators he was outside when the beating happened, and when he came inside, he told Ariel that she had gone too far.

Jerry told investigators that they then put the child in an Epsom salt bath and he went to a pharmacy to buy medication to help with the bruising before Tori became unresponsive. Prosecutors said law enforcement was able to get surveillance footage of Jerry making the purchase at the pharmacy as well.

Jerry also told investigators that there had been previous beatings as well: involving, a “belt, paddle, flip flop, or whatever.”

Before the events at the home on Sellwoood Circle that led to Tori’s death, prosecutors said the Robinsons had been in the process of adopting the child and her siblings, and that an adoption hearing was even scheduled for later in January. The Robinsons had been caring for Tori and her siblings since March of 2020.

Tori’s biological mother, Casie Phares, also appeared in court and asked the judge to deny bond for Robinson. Phares addressed the court, saying, “On Thursday January 14, 2021, 3-year-old daughter, Victoria Rose, was taken from this earth. My family and I have been devastated by her passing. It’s because of this that we respectfully request you deny bond for the defendant.”

While prosecutors also asked the judge to deny bond, Ariel’s attorneys had requested a $40,000 surety bond for the suspect. Her attorneys mentioned Ariel’s degrees from Lander and Clemson, her career in education, also mentioning that she had stopped teaching in 2019 and had been the children’s director at her church for seven years. The attorneys also pointed out that Ariel has no prior criminal history. The attorneys also told the judge Ariel was not a flight risk stating she did not have a passport and had spent her entire life in the Upstate.

Despite her attorney’s efforts, the judge ruled that due to the nature of the charges and because Robinson poses a potential danger to the community, specifically the children under her care - coupled with the possibility she could be a flight risk - Robinson was denied bond.