After a four-day trial, Ariel Robinson was convicted of homicide by child abuse in the death of 3-year-old Victoria “Tori” Rose Smith. She died at their home in Simpsonville South Carolina on January 14, 2021. Prosecutors said Robinson severely beat the child with a belt which caused her to suffer internal bleeding. After an hour and a half of deliberation, Robinson was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Her husband, Jerry “Austin” Robinson, testified against her. He made a plea deal and faces a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.
Victoria’s biological relatives believe people who scrutinize the young girl’s January 14 death along racial lines will not do anything to prevent another tragedy. (The foster parents and their biological sons were black, the girl and her two brothers were white.) Her biological family says the blame belongs to the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) who were too quick to seize her from biological mom, Casie Phares, and didn’t do enough to ensure she was going to a safe home.
“This could have happened in a bad white home or they could have been placed in a loving black home where none of this would have happened. The point is that the people in charge of the adoption process are supposed to see through the smoke. These people are the experts, we trusted them to put the kids in a safe and loving environment. We now know they weren’t safe, they weren’t in a good home. Victoria was sweet, she was sassy. She was a smart, happy little girl and now she’s gone. It’s devastating,” Michelle Urps, Victoria’s great aunt, said in an interview.
Robinson had adopted Victoria and her two older brothers in March 2020. She has written repeatedly about her commitment to social justice, tweeting in the wake of the Capitol riot about how her four sons would experience the world differently because of their skin color. “In my house, my black children get treated the same as my white children, and my white children get treated the same as my black children. It’s a shame that when they go out into the real world, that won’t be the case.”
Three days before Victoria was allegedly beaten to death Robinson posted a cute collage of photos of the pair together, captioning it: “We go together like ketchup & MUSTARD! #MiniMe Being a girl mom is awesome.”
What occurs to me is – why with such a large extended biological family were the children taken and placed where they were ? Victoria’s case is unfortunately not the first time SCDSS has been blamed in a child’s death.
Victoria’s biological mother, Casie Phares, said she was never abusive to her children, but bullied by SCDSS into giving her children up. Phares said she was first flagged by SCDSS when she tested positive for marijuana while pregnant with Victoria. After Victoria tested positive as a newborn, Victoria’s aunt, Michelle Urps said “things just kind of spiraled from there.”
According to Victoria’s biological aunt, Michelle Urps – One day, while under SCDSS radar, Phares fell asleep while watching the two boys and Victoria, who was a newborn at the time. She had been up all night with the baby the night before. The two boys ran to the neighbors while their mom was asleep, The neighbors contacted police and that was the “final straw” with SCDSS. Phares was struggling to find housing at the time, which made her case with SCDSS even worse.
We don’t support families well enough to preserve children in the family they were born into. Many lose their children for nothing worse than being in poverty. This applies even more to struggling single moms.