JACKSON, Miss. – Fried chicken chain KFC said two different investigations have not found any evidence that an employee asked a 3-year-old girl and family members to leave because injuries she suffered in a pit bull mauling disturbed customers.
KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said Tuesday the company considered the matter closed after an internal investigation by the franchise restaurant in Jackson and an independent probe. Maynard said the company would honour its commitment to donate $30,000 to help with medical bills for Victoria Wilcher.
“Like the rest of America, the KFC family has been moved by the story of Victoria’s injuries and recovery,” Maynard said. “We hope everyone keeps Victoria in their thoughts and prayers. She will certainly be in ours.”
Allegations that Victoria was asked to leave the restaurant were made earlier this month on the Facebook site Victoria’s Victories, which has followed her recovery from the April attack.
In a statement, Hannon Food Services, which operates the restaurant, said the company was deeply troubled by the allegation.
As part of its investigation, Hannon said it spent hundreds of hours reviewing surveillance video, interviewing employees and hired the outside investigator. The company said it would reach out to the child’s family for additional discussions.
Jackson attorney Bill Kellum, in a statement Tuesday afternoon on behalf of the child’s family, said Victoria’s grandmother, Kelly Mullins, stands by her claim of what happened at the restaurant.
“Victoria’s 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,” he said.
“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,” Kellum said.
He said the child’s family is grateful for outpouring of concern for her.
After the initial allegation, KFC posted an apology the next morning and asked for more details about what happened.
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.”
No one responded to a message sent through the Facebook page.
Earlier, the child’s grandmother, Kelly Mullins, told Jackson television station 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.
In her posts, Bates said the child was attacked by three pit bulls while visiting her grandfather at his home south of Jackson. Since April, she has undergone reconstructive surgery, Bates said.
KFC is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and is a division of publicly traded Yum! Brands Inc. The company was spun off from Pepsico in the 1990s. Its anchor restaurants brands are KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
In Mississippi, the company has 80 KFC restaurants. All are operated by franchise holders, KFC spokesman Maynard said.
Parent company Yum! reported total sales of more than $13 billion in 2013.