The story of a three-year-old with a badly disfigured face from a pit bull attack being asked to leave a KFC restaurant captured the sympathy of many, and even led to donations of as much as $135,000. But the heart-wrenching tale from last week may be a hoax.
The Laurel Leader-Call reported the girl, Victoria Wilcher, and her grandmother Kelly Mullins never even visited the Jackson, Mississippi KFC on May 15 when the alleged story happened. A source in the investigation told the newspaper surveillance footage never showed the pair enter the restaurant or any of the area’s KFC restaurants.
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Wilcher’s story went viral on June 12 when the family posted on Facebook about the little girl being kicked out of a KFC because her appearance upset customers. Wilcher reportedly lost her right eye and has a badly disfigured face from being attacked by three pit bulls in April.
“Does this face look scary to you?” the post read. “Last week at KFC in Jackson MS this precious face was asked to leave because her face scared the other diners. I personally will never step foot in another KFC again and will be personally writing the CEO.”
Mullins told local news WAPT that she and Wilcher visited a KFC on the way home from a doctor’s visit at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital on May 15 where she ordered a large sweet tea and mashed potatoes with gravy for the little girl on a feeding tube.
“I ordered a large sweet tea and her some mashed potatoes and gravy because she was hungry,” Mullins told WAPT. “They said, ‘We have to ask you to leave because her face is disrupting our customers.’ (Victoria) understood exactly what they said.”
“She’s got a lot of surgeries to go through and she won’t even look in the mirror anymore,” Mullins continued, adding Victoria cried the whole way home. “When we go to a store, she doesn’t even want to get out (of the car). She’s 3 years old and she’s embarrassed about what she looks like. She’s embarrassed and I hate it because she shouldn’t be. It ain’t her fault.”
News of the incident went viral after the family posted the story on the Victoria’s Victories Facebook page run by the girl’s aunt. KFC immediately responded and said it would donate $30,000 to help with the girl’s medical bills. The public also raised money for Wilcher, generating over $135,000 in cash total as well as gifts and free surgeries.
But according to a new report from The Leader-Call, there are inconsistencies in the family’s story, leading many—including the KFC restaurant where the alleged incident happened—to believe it was all a scam. The paper reported surveillance footage does not show anyone resembling Wilcher or her grandmother in either of the KFC restaurants near the children’s hospital. There’s also a discrepancy about which Jackson location the pair actually visited; Wilcher’s aunt said the grandmother confused two KFC branches when initially posting about the incident. The source also told The Leader-Caller no one had ordered “mashed potatoes with gravy and sweat tea” as a single transaction or even part of a larger order on May 15.
“It just didn’t happen,” the source told the newspaper.
KFC also brought in a third-party mediator to investigate. The KFC franchise owner Kirk Hannon told WJTV:
“We continue to take this report seriously, and of course have great sympathy for Victoria and her family. Since we have so far not been able to verify the incident in our internal investigation, we have also hired a third-party consultant to conduct an independent investigation to help us resolve this matter. We have always prided ourselves on respect for all people and we will continue to emphasize this to all our employees. In addition, regardless of the outcome of the current investigation, KFC Corporation has committed $30,000 to assist with Victoria’s medical bills. Along with the KFC Corporation, we are determined to get to the truth and address the situation appropriately.”
The investigation is expected to conclude next week, but until then, Mullins’ attorney Bill Kellum said he would not comment.
“While we are pleased that KFC has brought in a third-party investigator, our primary goal is to help Victoria recuperate,” he said. Dick West, who owns the local Jackson KFC franchises, posted on Facebook about the incident on Saturday.
“When the allegation was first made, KFC pledged $30,000 to go to medical expenses and started an investigation to find the truth,” he wrote. “They have pledged the money even if it is proven that the incident never happened. 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.”
The family, however, released a statement on Tuesday on the Victoria’s Victories Facebook page:
“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 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.”