JACKSON, Miss. — In the wake of reports that a KFC employee asked the family of a 3-year-old girl scarred by a pit bull attack to leave the restaurant because her injuries disturbed customers, the fried chicken chain said two different investigations have not found any evidence of those allegations.
KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said Tuesday the company considers the matter closed after an internal investigation by the franchise restaurant in Jackson, Miss., and an independent probe. Maynard said the company would honor its commitment to donate $30,000 to help with medical bills for Victoria Wilcher.
KFC hired an outside investigator because it was concerned that the Jackson, Miss., restaurant's internal investigation couldn't verify the incident, Maynard said.
"Like the rest of America, the KFC family has been moved by the story of Victoria's injuries and recovery," said Maynard. "We hope everyone keeps Victoria in their thoughts and prayers. She will certainly be in ours."
The attorney for Victoria's family disputes the findings.
"It is unfortunate that Victoria and her family are being vilified on what appears to be the result of an inconclusive investigation conducted by KFC and/or its agents that implies Victoria's story is a "hoax," said William Kellum of Jackson, the attorney for Victoria's family. "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.
On Tuesday, the owner of the KFC franchise that runs the restaurant said a review of video surveillance found no evidence to corroborate the allegation.
Hannon Food Services issued a statement to WAPT-TV in Jackson, Miss., on Tuesday that said hundreds of hours were spent reviewing the video surveillance at the KFC restaurant and all of the employees at that location were interviewed.
"As of today, neither Hannon Food Services nor the outside firm involved in the consultation has found any evidence to verify that the incident took place at our restaurant on Woodrow Wilson Drive. Nevertheless, we'll continue to exhaust every possible avenue until we're absolutely sure we have all the facts," the statement read.
Company officials said they would like to meet with Victoria's family "so they can provide us with any additional information they would like for us to be aware of," according to WAPT.
In his statement, Kellum said the 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."
But he said Kelly Mullins, Victoria's grandmother, "maintains that her description of the events that occurred at a Jackson KFC regarding Victoria are true and accurate."
Allegations that the child was asked to leave the restaurant were made earlier this month on the Facebook site Victoria's Victories, which has followed the child's recovery from the April attack. KFC posted an apology the next morning and asked for more details about what happened.
Mullins told WAPT-TV that the child had just been to a doctor and stopped at the restaurant. After they ordered, an employee approached, she said.
"They just told us, they said, 'We have to ask you to leave because her face is disrupting our customers,' " Mullins told the TV station.
Earlier Tuesday, Kellum, took to task a community newspaper in Laurel, Miss., for reporting "unsubstantiated allegations made by an anonymous source" that the story about the scarred little girl being asked to leave a KFC is a "hoax."
Teri Rials Bates, the child's aunt, runs the Victoria's Victories Facebook page.
"I promise it's not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has," a post said early Tuesday. "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."
In her posts, Bates said the child was attacked by three pit bulls while visiting her grandfather at his home in Simpson County south of Jackson in April. Since then, she has undergone reconstructive surgery, Bates said.
Contributing: The Associated Press