By Anna DeWine
XENIA — A chicken club sandwich gone “fowl” sparked a three-day bench trial for a Dayton woman this week.
Wednesday marked the third day of the trial in Greene County Common Pleas Court regarding a physical altercation that took place at a McDonald’s on Colonel Glenn Highway.
Nicolette Bell, 26, is facing a three-count indictment following the incident that occurred Aug. 29, 2015. Bell is charged with felonious assault, a felony of the second degree; abduction, a felony of the third degree, and simple assault, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
The dispute began after Bell’s family of five took a trip to McDonald’s.
“I expected we were going to go get some nice, fresh, hot McDonald’s, eat it up, and go home to finish cleaning,” Bell testified in Judge Michael Buckwalter’s courtroom on Wednesday.
After speculation that one of the sandwiches had been spat on, the family returned the food, demanded a refund, and the alleged physical altercation soon ensued.
Bell’s alleged assault on Sara Murray, a McDonald’s employee, includes Bell allegedly pulling Murray’s ponytail, slamming Murray into a table, punching Murray, and dragging Murray across the store by her hair, according to testimonials and McDonald’s security camera footage.
The state, represented by Greene County Prosecutor David Hayes, rested on Wednesday as the defense proceeded. Bell’s attorney, C. Ralph Wilcoxson, called three witnesses to the stand. The witnesses were the defendant’s brother, sister, and mother.
All testified on the events that surrounded the unwrapping of the chicken club sandwich.
The defendant’s younger brother, Nicholas Bell, who was at the time an employee of McDonald’s, testified that his chicken club sandwich “looked like it came out of the waste-bucket.” The sandwich was very dry and looked like it had saliva on the patty, he claimed. As an employee, Nicholas Bell said he knew what a chicken club sandwich should look like.
“I was very disgusted. It was just a terrible thing,” Nicola Bunch, Bell’s mother, said.
During the prosecutor’s questioning, Hayes used the defense’s exhibit, two photos of the chicken sandwich. He pointed out the tomato slice next to the chicken patty.
“I’m a nursing student,” Nicolette Bell said, “I know the difference between saliva and juices from a tomato.”
Defense witnesses argued that the root of the incident began days before the sandwich was ever made, when Nicholas Bell was closing during a shift at McDonald’s. An argument via speakerphone allegedly ensued between Nicolette Bell and Murray when Nicholas Bell, a then high school student, wanted to leave his late shift before Murray would allow. Nicholas Bell testified that Murray said he could leave, but that he would be fired.
Neyante Barber, Bell’s sister, testified another portion of the story that led to the alleged assault. As the family ordered their meal at McDonald’s, Barber said she heard “snickering behind the counter” and an “unprofessional comment” when Bunch asked for Nicholas Bell’s employee discount. At that point, Nicolette Bell told her brother to put in his two week’s notice. The family gathered their food and left.
Upon return to the store, when no refund was made and Murray placed a call to the police, the physical altercation began.
Police photos show the front counter where food and drinks were spilled. A cash register and computer ended up on the floor.
According to doctor’s records, Murray suffered from an acute nasal fracture. All three witnesses and the defendant claimed that they didn’t notice Murray’s injury, and that there was no blood on her face, on her clothing, or on the floor.
Hayes asked Buckwalter for a guilty verdict on three counts during closing arguments.
“The law is enforced so we do not end disputes like Nicolette Bell did on August 29, 2015,” he said. “She took the law into her own hands with the ends of her fists by banging Sara’s head into a table.”
Hayes stated that Murray testified earlier in the week and described the “significant pain” from her injury, and admitted that she was “terrified” by what was happening.
“At the end of the day, this was a senseless, unnecessary act of violence in this community …” Hayes said. “Sara Murray did not lay a hand on her.”
Wilcoxson followed with his closing argument, stating that the case was not as it appeared on the surface.
“People do spit on food,” Wilcoxson said.
Wilcoxson defended Nicolette Bell, saying, “I believe she testified that she felt like she was being treated less than a person.”
Wilcoxson motioned the court to reconsider the lesser included offenses of aggravated assault or misdemeanor assault.
All parties will reconvene on Wednesday, Oct. 19 in Buckwalter’s courtroom.