After donating $30,000 toward a 3-year-old girl’s medical bills after she was supposedly asked to leave one of its restaurants, KFC hired an independent investigator to look into the incident. Though the results of the final report have not been released, sources tell the Clarion-Ledger that the entire story is a hoax to raise money.
Allegations first surfaced earlier this month that a restaurant employee in Jackson, Mississippi, asked Victoria Wilcher to leave because her facial injuries were scaring customers. The claim about KFC was made Thursday on "Victoria's Victories," a Facebook page following Victoria Wilcher's recovery from a pit bull attack in April.
Wilcher’s family has reportedly received more than $135,000 in cash, as well as other gifts and free surgeries. Here are some of the key findings reported by the Clarion-Ledger:
• Kelly Mullins, the child's grandmother who was reportedly with her at the store, told KFC that the incident happened on May 15. A Facebook post attributed to Victoria's Victories, a support site for young Victoria Wilcher who was mauled by three of her grandfather's pit bulls, has the two in Jackson on May 15 having gone to Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital. There are two KFC locations close to the hospital — on Woodrow Wilson Drive and Meadowbrook Drive.
On May 16, Victoria's Victories wrote: "We had a small adventure yesterday, Victoria pulled her feeding tube out but thanks to the great people at Batson Children's Hospital she is home today waiting for her new sister! Mom & Baby Abby come home today too!!"
• The source said surveillance videos show that at no time on the 15th were any children in the store who match the description of Victoria Wilcher or Mullins. The tapes were viewed in both the Meadowbrook and Woodrow Wilson KFC locations in Jackson, the source said. In hours of tape, the source said one small boy with his parents is seen, but they order food and leave the store.
• The source said no orders were recorded to include mashed potatoes and sweet tea on the same transaction, or even the two items as part of a larger order on May 15. Mullins told WAPT TV in Jackson shortly after the incident went viral on social media June 12 that: "I ordered a sweet tea and mashed potatoes and gravy. I sat down at the table and started feeding her and the lady came over and said that we would have to leave, because we were disturbing other customers, that Victoria's face was disturbing other customers."
• The family initially told KFC the incident happened at the location on State and High streets, a claim backed by a Facebook post by Victoria's Victories, a page run by Teri Rials Bates, the girl's aunt that read: "Thank you for your support for Victoria. If you would like to file a complaint its the KFC on State Street in Jackson MS." That store is not in operation and has been closed for several years.
The "Victoria's Victories" Facebook page, which had more than 187,000 likes on Monday, posted a message assuring supporters that the story is not a hoax.
"I promise its not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has. The article circling the web calling this a hoax is untrue. The article it self say the investigation is not complete. It is not over until KFC releases a statement," the post states.
"The media outlet running this story is not connected with KFC. The family has not asked for anything, a attorney is handling all the media publicity for the family pro bono. Please do not believe untrue media. I have personally watched this family go without to provide for Victoria. They have not and would not do anything to hurt Victoria in any way."
Mississippi KFC franchisee, Dick West of West Quality Food reportedly said KFC pledged to donate $30,000 for Wilcher’s surgery and will honor the promise even if the story turns out to be a hoax. He made it clear that he doesn’t think the incident occurred.
“At this point their story is full of holes. Any thinking person who follows their timeline can see it. The event at KFC never happened,” he wrote on a news station’s Facebook page.
Victoria Wicher’s injuries are seemingly very real, though. She was attacked by pit bulls at her grandfather's home. The dogs broke her nose, both jaws, cheekbones and right eye socket; the right side of her face is paralyzed and she lost that eye, according to her Facebook site. Her bottom jaw was reconstructed but she needs a feeding tube and must grow more bone in her face before more surgery is possible, it states.
KFC isn't commenting on the case until the results of their independent investigation are final.
"Along with the KFC Corporation, we are determined to get to the truth and address the situation appropriately," the company said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.