A Mississippi family raised more than $135,000 in cash, along with offers of free medical care and other gifts, after claiming a 3-year-old girl disfigured in a pit bull attack was asked to leave a KFC because her injuries upset other customers.
The story quickly went viral earlier this month, and employees at two KFC locations in Jackson said they were subjected to abuse from supportive customers, but an investigation revealed the family made up the incident, reported The Clarion-Ledger.
Kelly Mullins, the girl’s grandmother, said she took Victoria Wilcher on May 15 to a KFC near Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital for a meal.
"I ordered a sweet tea and mashed potatoes and gravy,” Mullins told WAPT-TV on June 12, shortly after her claims attracted international attention. “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."
Sources with knowledge of KFC’s investigation told the Laurel Leader-Call that surveillance video from both KFC restaurants near the hospital showed no customers who matched the description of Mullins or her granddaughter.
The source said no orders were recorded to include mashed potatoes and sweet tea in the same transaction on that day.
No hospital patient had ever been asked to leave one of the two restaurants near the hospital, the source said, adding that he had seen people who suffer from a variety of ailments eat at the restaurants.
"We have never, ever, ever run off anyone, and we have seen some really, really sick people come to the restaurant from the hospital," the source said. "We've had people come in who were shot in the face. We've had them with tubes and wire sticking out. We never have asked anyone to leave."
The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak on the record.
The family initially told KFC the incident happened at the restaurant on State and High Streets, and they made similar claims on the “Victoria’s Victories” Facebook page maintained by the girl’s aunt.
However, that store has been closed for several years, and another post made on the page Friday claimed that information was inaccurately reported and that the incident had actually taken place at the Woodrow Wilson Drive location.
Employees and managers at both KFC locations in Jackson said they have endured death threats, had drinks thrown at them through the drive-through window, and faced constant verbal harassment since the family’s claims went public.
KFC donated $30,000 to help pay for the girl's medical bills after she was attacked in April by three pit bulls owned by her grandfather, Donald Mullins.
Mullins and his girlfriend, Rita Tompkins, were arrested and charged with child endangerment, but were freed on bond.
Victoria suffered several broken bones, severe facial scarring, and has been fed through a tube.
A Las Vegas plastic surgeon has offered to cover the cost of reconstructive procedures -- which typically cost tens of thousands of dollars -- through his nonprofit organization, and other doctors have offered their help.
The family claimed on Facebook that they had been fighting with their insurance carrier over the cost of the girl's medical bills, but they never identified the carrier.
The official findings from the report are expected this week, and the family claimed the investigation would back their claims.
"I promise (it's) not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has," the family said on Facebook. "The article circling the web calling this a hoax is untrue. The article (itself says) the investigation is not complete. It is not over until KFC releases a statement."