It was a viral story that outraged millions – a 3-year-old girl with severe facial scars kicked out of a KFC in Mississippi because her appeared “scared” other customers.
There’s one problem, though.
“It just didn’t happen,” a source tells the local Laurel Leader-Call. It appears the whole thing was a hoax, allegedly orchestrated by the girl’s grandmother.
Kelly Mullins raised more than $135,000 for her granddaughter, Victoria Wilcher, got free surgeries for her and picked up $30,000 from KFC itself after claiming that Victoria was ordered out of a KFC in Jackson, Mississippi, on May 15.
But inconsistencies emerged in her story during a Leader-Call investigation. The grandmother and child don’t appear on any surveillance tapes from that day; no one matching their description appears to have visited the restaurant; and there is no record of the food order that Mullins claims she made – sweet tea and mashed potatoes and gravy.
KFC says two different investigations have not found any evidence that an employee asked the girl and her family to leave the restaurant, The Associated Press reports.
KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said Tuesday than an investigation by the franchise restaurant in Mississippi and an independent probe were done and the company considers the matter closed. But Maynard added that KFC is still donating $30,000 to help with Wilcher’s medical bills.
Dick West, who owns the KFC franchise, commented about the matter on Facebook.
“At this point their story is full of holes,” he wrote. “Any thinking person who follows their timeline can see it. The event at KFC never happened.”
It is not clear if Mullins would face criminal charges if she is found to have invented the story.
The family’s attorney, Bill Kellum, released a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying that 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.
The Go Fund Me page set up to raise money for the little girl’s medical expenses and the Victoria’s Victories Facebook page appeared to have been taken down on Tuesday afternoon.