An internal probe and an independent investigation found no evidence that fried chicken chain KFC asked a 3-year-old girl disfigured by a pit bull attack to leave a restaurant in Jackson, Miss., because her facial scars disturbed other customers.
The story went viral and stirred outrage when it was reported on May 15 and was used in a successful Facebook fund-raising appeal by the girl’s family.
On Tuesday, family attorney Bill Kellum said Victoria’s grandmother, Kelly Mullins, stands by her story of what happened at the restaurant. “Victoria’s family appreciates the actions of KFC in their investigation of this matter. They look forward to assisting KFC in what we hope will be an ongoing investigation,” he said.
“It is deeply disappointing that other parties have taken opportunity to attack Victoria through social and news media outlets. Victoria is an innocent child with very real physical and emotional scars. The focus of her family has always been, and will always be on Victoria and making her whole again,” Kellum added.
KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said Tuesday the company considered the matter closed, according to the Associated Press. The announcement confirms a story published Monday in the Laurel Leader-Call, a local paper, based on anonymous sources who said the investigation cast doubt on claims made by the child’s family on Facebook picked up by the media.
Maynard said it will honor its commitment to donate $30,000 for Victoria Wilcher’s medical bills.
“Like the rest of America, the KFC family has been moved by the story of Victoria’s injuries and recovery,” Maynard said. “We hope everyone keeps Victoria in their thoughts and prayers. She will certainly be in ours.”
Hannon Food Services, which operates the restaurant, said in a statement that it spent hundreds of hours reviewing surveillance video and interviewing employees. The company also hired an outside investigator to conduct an independent investigation.
KFC initially apologized after the May 15 incident. Here’s what Victoria’s grandmother told a local TV station:
“I took her to the doctor and I went to KFC. I ordered a large sweet tea and her some mashed potatoes and gravy because she was hungry. She was on a feeding tube at the time, but I figured she could just swallow [the potatoes],” Mullins said. “They just told us, they said, ‘We have to ask you to leave because her face is disrupting our customers.’ [Victoria] understood exactly what they said.”
Mullins said she put Victoria in the car and left. She said Victoria cried all the way home to Simpson County.
The Victoria’s Victories Facebook page, which appears to have been taken down, documented the child’s recovery from an April pit bull attack that left half her face paralyzed and caused her to lose an eye. On the page, the family claimed the child and her grandmother were asked to leave a KFC that turned out to have been closed for years. Victoria’s aunt Teri Rials Bates, who maintains the page, later said it happened at another location on Woodrow Wilson Drive near the Jackson hospital where Victoria went for treatment.
Security camera footage from that KFC and another near the hospital did not show children matching Victoria’s description going into either restaurant on May 15, according to sources interviewed by the Leader-Call. Nor did any orders taken that day include both sweet tea and mashed potatoes – what Mullins claimed she ordered for her granddaughter.
The source also said that many customers from a nearby hospital suffering various ailments had eaten at the KFC — and none had ever been asked to leave.