UPDATE: June 24 -- KFC says that a 3-year-old with facial injuries was never kicked out of one of its franchises.
"After the alleged incident was reported to us, two investigations took place, including one by an independent investigator. Neither revealed any evidence that the incident occurred, and we consider the investigation closed," KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said Tuesday evening, per Reuters.
Nevertheless, the company says it still plans to donate $30,000 to the girl's recovery fund.
UPDATE: June 25 -- The family's GoFundMe donations page appears to have been taken down.
Was a little girl with facial injuries kicked out of a KFC? No one really knows. A new report claims the story was a hoax, but the girl's family says it's all true.
After the family's version of the story went viral and donations poured in, KFC began reviewing the situation. Now, a source close to the investigation has come forward, claiming the incident never happened. The family, however, is sticking to its original story.
Kelly Mullins says she was with her 3-year-old granddaughter, Victoria Wilcher, at a KFC in Jackson, Mississippi, on May 15 when an employee told the two to leave because the little girl's face was scaring customers. Wilcher had survived a pit bull attack in April; she had lost an eye and was still recovering from a broken nose, a broken upper and lower jaw and shattered cheekbones, according to the Facebook page her family uses to document her recovery.
"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 recalled of the alleged KFC incident, per local news outlet WAPT. "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."
The story began to spread online, and donations for recovery-related surgeries poured in. Wilcher's family raised more than $135,000 (donations page appears to have been taken down), including a whopping $30,000 from KFC. But a Monday report from Mississippi's Laurel Leader-Call claims the family's KFC story was just a publicity stunt to raise cash.
An anonymous source close to an ongoing KFC investigation told the Leader-Call there is no surveillance footage of Victoria and her grandmother on May 15 at the KFC locations in the area. The source also said local KFCs had no record of their order of sweet tea and mashed potatoes and gravy.
On Tuesday, a family member took to the Victoria's Victories Facebook page to respond. The post reads, in part:
I promise its not a hoax. ... 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 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 [all sic].
KFC spokesman Rick Maynard told The Huffington Post in an email the company is still committed to its donation to Victoria, regardless of whether the story turns out to be a hoax. Wrote Maynard:
We have taken this report very seriously from the beginning. Since our franchisee was unable to verify the incident in their internal investigation, they hired a third-party consultant to conduct an independent investigation to help resolve the matter. Along with our franchisee, we remain determined to get to the truth and address the situation appropriately.
We expect to have the findings of that investigation soon, and we are committed to the $30,000 donation to assist with Victoria’s medical bills no matter the outcome.