KFC says there is no evidence a 3-year-old girl scarred by a vicious dog attack was asked to leave one of its restaurants because her face was frightening other customers. But the fried chicken chain is going to honor its $30,000 commitment to help pay for Victoria Wilcher's medical bills anyway.
"We consider the investigation closed," the company said in a statement released late Tuesday. "We are honoring our commitment to make a $30,000 donation to assist with Victoria's medical bills. We hope everyone keeps Victoria in their thoughts and prayers. She will certainly be in ours."
Wilcher's grandmother, Kelly Mullins, had said she was driving her granddaughter home from the hospital when they stopped at a KFC in Jackson, Mississippi, for sweet tea and mashed potatoes.
“They just told us, ‘We have to ask you to leave because her face is disrupting our customers,’" Mullins told WAPT-TV earlier this month. "[Victoria] understood exactly what they said."
But Mullins and her granddaughter do not appear in surveillance video taken from the restaurant on the day of the alleged incident, according to the Laurel Leader-Call, and "no orders were recorded to include mashed potatoes and sweet tea on the same transaction."
"We have taken this report very seriously from the beginning," KFC spokesman Rick Maynard told Yahoo News on Tuesday, saying the company had hired a third-party consultant to conduct an independent investigation.
"We are committed to the $30,000 donation to assist with Victoria’s medical bills, no matter the outcome," Maynard said.
The family of the girl did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"I promise [it's] not a hoax," Teri Rials Bates, Victoria's aunt, wrote Tuesday on a Facebook page that had been created in April to give updates on Victoria's recovery. "I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has.
"The family has not asked for anything," Bates added. "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."
The Facebook page was taken down Tuesday afternoon.
ABC's "Good Morning America" reports that an online fundraising page that had raised more than $135,000 for the toddler was taken down, too.
"In lieu of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the 'Victoria's Victories' online fundraising effort," GoFundMe CEO Brad Damphousse said in a statement, "[we have] temporarily suspended the campaign until the full truth is made clear."
After Mullins wrote about her experience at KFC on Facebook, the company apologized and launched its internal investigation.
"Please accept our sincere apologies while we try to investigate this incident," said a comment submitted by the restaurant. "If you could help provide details of the incident ... we will look into this immediately."
After the story went viral, KFC also pledged $30,000 to help pay for Victoria's recovery.
Investigators said three pit bulls attacked Victoria in the backyard of her grandfather's home. According to WAPT-TV, the grandfather, Donald Mullins — Kelly Mullins' ex-husband — shot and killed two of the dogs; a third was euthanized. The grandfather and his girlfriend were later arrested on child-endangerment charges.
According to Simpson County Sheriff Kenneth Lewis, Donald Mullins was keeping 10 pit bulls at his home at the time of the attack.
"This is probably the worst [pit bull attack] we've ever had," Lewis said.