Signage at a Kentucky Fried Chicken on a Mountain View, Calif., restaurant, on July 13, 2010. / Paul Sakuma, AP
JACKSON, Miss. - The grandmother of the 3-year-old girl whose family clams KFC employee asked to leave one of its restaurants because the girl's injuries from a pit bull attack disturbed customers, is aware that public sentiment has turned against her.
Kelly Mullins understands many choose to believe KFC's findings that there's no evidence the incident occurred, but she stands by her story.
"I've heard about all the nasty comments on the Internet, and I'm very, very upset about it," Mullins told The Clarion-Ledger Tuesday. "What is getting me through this is, I know the truth and the truth has to come out at some point."
A story appearing Monday in the Laurel Leader-Call newspaper quoted 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 for Children that anyone matching the description of Mullins' granddaughter, Victoria Wilcher, entered either location on May 15. They also contend no register orders showed a combination of foods the grandmother reported as being ordered were placed on that day.
The Victoria's Victories Facebook page - which was taken down Tuesday after people began posting hateful comments - noted the little girl and her grandmother visited Batson on May 15 after Victoria pulled out her feeding tube.
But the alleged incident at the KFC wasn't noted on the Facebook page until June 12. The story went viral the next day. Mullins says her days and dates run together because of Victoria's relentless schedule of doctor's appointments.
"Since Victoria got out of the hospital in May, we've been driving to Jackson at least two to three times a week," she said. "And it's usually not just one appointment when we go. She usually sees two or three doctors, which I guess is good because I couldn't afford to drive up there every day.
"But getting Victoria well is the main thing I'm focused on. So when she needs to see a doctor, we go."
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, which was run by Victoria's aunt, Teri Rials Bates. The post read: "Thank you for your support for Victoria. If you would like to file a complaint, it's the KFC on State Street in Jackson MS." That store is not in operation and has been closed for several years.
Mullins told The Clarion-Ledger that the confusion on the correct KFC could be because Jackson "looks a lot different" than it used to be.
"I moved out of state, to Missouri, for 15 years and came back about three years ago," Mullins said. "There are new roads ... I get turned around and lost very quick. My mom tried to tell me how to find her house (in Jackson) and I wound up having to go buy a Jackson map. I know that's pitiful, but it's the only way I could find it."
Lindsey Turk, one of the Jackson attorneys who is assisting the family, had Mullins follow her in separate vehicles in an attempt to locate the KFC where Mullins said the incident happened.
"I felt sure it had to be close to Batson hospital, where Victoria goes to the doctor," Turk said. "When we turned into the parking lot of the KFC on Woodrow Wilson, Kelly immediately started nodding her head. She appeared certain that it was the correct KFC."
Mullins said she recognized it once she saw it again "because I used to have to go to the doctor at the Jackson Medical Mall" that is nearby.
As for Victoria, Mullins said "she has her good days and bad days. You have to fight tooth and nail to change her bandages. And she doesn't like the feeding tube."
A Las Vegas plastic surgeon, Frank Stile of Las Vegas, flew to Mississippi on Saturday to meet Victoria and her family. He explained that his nonprofit would pay for the extensive reconstruction surgeries of Victoria's face. Raymond Peters, the owner of the Center for Custom Prosthetics in Florida, has agreed to donate a prosthetic eye and help out with surgeries.
"Both doctors' offices said (Tuesday) they are still on board with helping Victoria," Turk said.
Hannon Food Services issued a statement to WAPT-TV Tuesday that said hundreds of hours were spent reviewing the video surveillance at the KFC restaurant on Woodrow Wilson Drive and all of the employees at that location were interviewed.
"As of today, neither Hannon Food Services nor the outside firm involved in the consultation has found any evidence to verify that the incident took place at our restaurant on Woodrow Wilson Drive. Nevertheless, we'll continue to exhaust every possible avenue until we're absolutely sure we have all the facts," the statement read.
Company officials said they would like to meet with Victoria's family "so they can provide us with any additional information they would like for us to be aware of," according to WAPT.
On Wednesday, the fundraising website that raised thousands of dollars for the Victoria Victories cause has suspended the account and is working to refund donations, according to an official statement from GoFundMe.
The statement on the website read, "(due to) ongoing uncertainty surrounding the 'Victoria's Victories' online fundraising effort, GoFundMe has temporarily suspended the campaign until the full truth is made clear.
Donors wishing to request a refund should go to www.gofundme.com/contact."
Read the original story: Scarred girl's grandma: 'I know the truth' in KFC story