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KFC looks into child claim

Fried chicken chain KFC said an outside investigator for a franchised restaurant in Mississippi has completed an investigation into claims that an employee asked a 3-year-old girl and family members to leave because injuries she suffered in a pit bull mauling disturbed customers.

KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said the company was awaiting the investigator's report. KFC hired an outside investigator because it was concerned that the Jackson restaurant's internal investigation couldn't verify the incident, Maynard said.

KFC's commitment of $30,000 to help with the child's medical bills will not be affected by the outcome of the investigation, Maynard said.

Attorney Bill Kellum, who represents the family of Victoria Wilcher, said a statement would be issued later Tuesday.

Allegations that the child was asked to leave the restaurant were made earlier this month on the Facebook site Victoria's Victories, which has followed the child's recovery from the April attack. KFC posted an apology the next morning and asked for more details about what happened.

Teri Rials Bates, the child's aunt, runs the Victoria's Victories Facebook page.

"I promise it's not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has," a post said early Tuesday. "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."

No one immediately responded to a message sent through the Facebook page.

Earlier, the child's grandmother, Kelly Mullins, told Jackson television station WAPT-TV that the child had just been to a doctor and stopped at the restaurant. After they ordered, an employee approached, she said.

"They just told us, they said, 'We have to ask you to leave because her face is disrupting our customers,'" Mullins told the TV station.

In her posts, Bates said the child was attacked by three pit bulls while visiting her grandfather at his home in Simpson County south of Jackson in April. Since then, she has undergone reconstructive surgery, Bates said.

KFC is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and is a division of publicly traded Yum! Brands Inc. The company was spun off from Pepsico in the 1990s. Its anchor restaurants brands are KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

In Mississippi, the company has 80 KFC restaurants. All are operated by franchise holders, KFC spokesman Maynard said.

Parent company Yum! reported total sales of more than $13 billion in 2013.

The Canadian Press

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