Hearts broke when word got out last week that a Mississippi girl with facial scars was turned away from a KFC because her appearance was scaring customers. Now, KFC is saying it has found no evidence the incident ever occurred.
On Tuesday afternoon, a KFC spokesperson shared a statement with CNN regarding the conclusion of two separate investigations the company requested following the alleged incident involving 3-year-old Victoria Wilcher.
"Like the rest of America, the KFC family has been moved by the story of Victoria’s injuries and recovery. After the alleged incident was reported to us, two investigations took place, including one by an independent investigator. Neither revealed any evidence that the incident occurred and we consider the investigation closed," the statement read. "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."
Despite KFC's latest allegations, Victoria's family is insisting their story is valid.
"I promise it's 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. The article it self say the investigation is not complete. It is not over until KFC releases a statement," a family member of Victoria posted on Monday. "The media outlet running this story is not connected with KFC. The family has not asked for anything, a attorney is handling all the media publicity for the family pro bono. 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."
CNN's attempts reach the Wilcher family have been unsuccessful.
Victoria was maimed in a pit bull attack, and wears an eyepatch. Behind her big smile, her face bears significant scarring. Last week, on her Facebook page -- Victoria's Victories -- her family claimed she was asked to leave a KFC restaurant in May because an employee said her face was scaring other people.
KFC responded with an apology and pledged a $30,000 donation for Victoria's care. Thousands of dollars rolled in from concerned strangers around the world, topping $135,000 on Victoria's GoFundMe page.
The same message from Victoria's family member, included above, was posted on the family's GoFundMe page. According to a statement from issued to CNN by GoFundMe CEO Brian Damphouse, the fundraiser has been suspended.
"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 read. It was accompanied by a link for donors who wish to request a refund.
The issue of the KFC story's validity was first called into question when the Laurel Leader-Call published a report, based on anonymous sources, calling the Wilcher family's version of events a "hoax." The report alleged that a third party investigation ordered by KFC revealed there are no security videos of Victoria and her grandmother entering the KFC location on the date in question, nor any other area KFC. Furthermore, a review of the restaurant's registers could not match an order specified by Victoria's grandmother in the original Facebook post.
Responses to the revelation on Victoria's Facebook page ranged from doubt and anger to unconditional support.
"From the beginning I also thought that it was very hard to believe that an employee asked them to leave bc of the little girls face creeping out other customers... You would have to be the most absolutely disgusting person ever to walk up to Victoria's table and ask them to leave," one commenter said.
"Don't worry little one, we all know what media stands for and we never believe what they say," another comment read. "Courage and good luck to you."
"This girl's pain has just been multiplied by her grandmother exploiting her disfigurement. I have worked in the restaurant and service industry for a decade and I have never, ever heard of an employee asking someone with a disability or disfigurement to leave," said another.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Facebook page appears to have been erased.