By EMILY CEGIELSKI
The story of a 3-year-old girl being kicked out of a Jackson, Miss. KFC because scarring on her face was frightening customers enraged the nation last week. The company immediately pledged to donate $30,000 to assist with medical bills for the young girl, who had been involved in a vicious pit bull attack.
But a new report is claiming the entire story is a hoax. According to the Laurel Leader-Call, sources told the Mississippi newspaper that the facts didn't add up, so the restaurant hired a private investigator to look into the issue.
"We continue to take this report seriously, and of course have great sympathy for Victoria and her family. Since we have so far not been able to verify the incident in our internal investigation, we have also hired a third-party consultant to conduct an independent investigation to help us resolve this matter," Jackson franchise owner Kirk Hannon said in a statement to to WJTV.
The LL-C reports that a source with deep knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on the condition of strict anonymity, said surveillance videos show that at no time on May 15 -- the day of the alleged incident -- were any children who matched the description of the young girl inside either Jackson KFC location. The source also claims that receipts show that no orders included both of the items the family claims to have ordered, mashed potatoes and sweet tea.
Teri Rials Bates, an aunt of the 3-year-old, took to Facebook to deny the allegations that the story is a hoax, according to the Associated Press.
"I promise it's not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has," the post said. "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."
According to the Clarion-Ledger, the family has so far received over $135,000 in donations through an online donations site. Doctors have even offered free surgeries for the little girl to reconstruct her face. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, KFC says they will honor their donation.
On Saturday night, the president of West Quality Food, one of the largest franchisees in the KFC chain posted on the Facebook page of a Jackson television station.
"When the allegation was first made, KFC pledged $30,000 to go to medical expenses and started an investigation to find the truth," West wrote. "They have pledged the money even if it is proven that the incident never happened. At this point their story is full of holes. Any thinking person who follows their timeline can see it. The event at KFC never happened."