JACKSON, Miss. -- An attorney for a 3-year-old girl mauled by a pit bull is taking to task a community newspaper in Laurel for reporting "unsubstantiated allegations made by an anonymous source" that the story about the scarred little girl being asked to leave a KFC in Jackson is a "hoax."
"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 and ours has always been, and will always be on Victoria and making her whole again," William Kellum, of Jackson, Miss., said in a statement.
According to the family, Victoria and her grandmother, Kelly Mullins, visited a Jackson KFC on after a trip to Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital. The grandmother said that they were asked to leave by a KFC employee who said the little girl's scars were upsetting other customers. A story appearing Monday in the Laurel Leader-Callquotes anonymous sources "deep" in the investigation as saying investigators could find no evidence in a review of surveillance video at the two KFC restaurants nearest Blair E. Batson Hospital that anyone matching Victoria's description entered either location on May 15 and no register orders showed a combination of foods the grandmother reported as being ordered were placed on that day.
Mullins had told WAPT-Channel 16 in Jackson shortly after the incident went viral on social media June 12 that: "I ordered a sweet tea and mashed potatoes and gravy. I sat down at the table and started feeding her and the lady came over and said that we would have to leave, because we were disturbing other customers, that Victoria's face was disturbing other customers."
The Victoria's Victories Facebook page notes the little girl and her grandmother visited Batson Children's Hospital on May 15 after Victoria pulled her feeding tube out.
But the alleged incident at the KFC isn't noted until June 12. Under a photo of Victoria is this post:
Does this face look scary to you?
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.
Family members responded on Facebook to the story that appeared Monday in the Laurel Leader-Call.
"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," Teri Rials Bates, the aunt of the 3-year-old girl, wrote on the Victoria's Victories page. "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 story went viral on social media and made national news. KFC quickly responding, saying it was launching an investigation and contributing $30,000 to Victoria's medical fund.
KFC spokesman Rick Maynard told The Associated Press that the company is concerned that the Jackson restaurant's internal investigation couldn't verify the incident. An outside investigator has completed the investigation and the company is awaiting the report, Maynard said.
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KFC's commitment of $30,000 to help with the child's medical bills will not be affected by the investigation's outcome, Maynard said.
Kellum said in his statement that the family "did not anticipate that the response to 'Victoria's Victories' would be so widespread and generous. A family member simply posted a comment on Victoria's page regarding her experience at KFC that subsequently went viral. Victoria's family certainly did not expect the publicity resulting from the post. However, Victoria and her family are very appreciative of the outpouring of sympathy, prayers, donations and love from individuals and entities all over the world. All will assist in Victoria's recovery.
Questions about what happened began when the family initially told KFC the incident happened at the location on State and High streets, a claim backed by a post on Victoria's Victories, a page run by Bates,t that read: "Thank you for your support for Victoria. If you would like to file a complaint its the KFC on State Street in Jackson MS." That store is not in operation and has been closed for several years.
Victoria's Victories on Friday said the State Street reference was a mistake. Bates wrote: "Im the Aunt, I run her page and Im the one that miss quoted that it was State street when it was actually Woodrow Wilson. Dont blame the grandmother for my mistake!"
According to the Laurel Leader-Call story, after the alleged incident went viral, employees and managers at both Jackson locations faced death threats, had drinks thrown at them through the drive-thru window and faced verbal harassment.
Victoria was mauled by three pit bulls at her Simpson County home on April 10. Sheriff Kenneth Lewis told media the dogs ripped through a door on the back of the trailer.