Donation page suspended after doubts that injured girl was asked to leave KFC
(CNN) — It was a heart-wrenching story. A Mississippi grandmother said she brought her 3-year-old granddaughter into a KFC in Jackson earlier this year. Little Victoria Wilcher had to eat through a feeding tube, her grandmother said, because she had been recently attacked by pit bulls. The girl’s face was badly scarred, and she wore an eye patch.
The grandmother, Kelly Mullins, said she ordered food — mashed potatoes — something the child could more easily swallow. Then she was asked to leave. Victoria’s appearance was disturbing over customers.
That account, told on the family’s Facebook page Victoria’s Victories received national media attention, and it enraged many on social media who then contributed money to the family.
But Tuesday, KFC said it conducted two investigations, including one by an independent investigator, and neither revealed any proof that the scenario described to reporters and on social media actually occurred, KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said in a statement e-mailed to CNN.
The same day, the Victoria’s Victories page appeared to have been removed from Facebook. Shortly before it was taken down, this posting appeared: “I promise its not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has. … 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.”
Despite CNN’s repeated calls Tuesday, neither the family nor the family’s attorney could be reached for comment.
Donation page suspended
After the family’s account became public, donations poured into the family’s fund-raising effort at www.gofundme.com. At the time, KFC left an apology on the Facebook page and pledged to donate $30,000 for Victoria’s treatment.
On Tuesday, the CEO of GoFundMe, Brad Damphousse, said in a statement that the fund-raising webpage was suspending the campaign and offering to refund donations.
“In lieu of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the ‘Victoria’s Victories’ online fundraising effort, GoFundMe has temporarily suspended the campaign until the full truth is made clear,” the statement said.
Also, the Leader-Call newspaper in Laurel, Mississippi, published a report casting doubt on the family’s story, using unnamed sources.
“The sources spoke on the condition of strict anonymity because they were not permitted to speak on the record,” the newspaper said.
Authorities verified to CNN on Tuesday the account of how Victoria came to be injured. Pit bulls attacked the girl in April while she visited her grandfather, from whom Mullins is divorced, authorities said.
The dogs bit the girl all over, including her face. She has severe facial scars and lost sight in her right eye and the ability to move the right side of her face, Mullins told CNN affiliate WAPT-TV. The child wears an eye patch with a cartoon character on it.
Despite saying it hadn’t found proof that one of its restaurants mistreated the girl or her grandmother, KFC is vowing to honor its commitment to donate $30,000 to assist with Victoria’s medical bills.
“We hope everyone keeps Victoria in their thoughts and prayers,” the chain said in a statement. “She will certainly be in ours.”
(editor’s note: Another Facebook page called Victoria’s Victories support compassion and love, which appeared to also focus on Victoria Wilcher, was started Wednesday, June 25, 2014. )