DOVER - When a middle-aged couple pulled into a McDonald's drive-thru on a recent Saturday night little did they think they would become the victims of a random beating while waiting in line for their late-evening snack.
But that's exactly what happened at the Central Avenue eatery around 11:25 p.m. on March 10, Dover Police Lt. Brant Dolleman said on Friday.
"The three victims were just waiting in line and then another vehicle cuts them off and they just start yelling at them," he said.
The male and female in the car, both in their 40s, were accompanied by the woman's son who is 19. Since they are victims, none have been identified.
Dolleman said after car cut them off, the three subjects - later identified as two men and a woman from Rochester - began taunting and yelling insults.
As tensions escalated, one of the men, identified as Robert C. Gorham, got out of the group's vehicle and approached the victims' car, Dolleman said, which led the 19-year-old to also get out to confront him.
Dolleman said things then happened quickly. First, he said Gorham took a swing at the teen, but missed. Then Gorham went over to and began strangling the woman.
As her companion came to her defense, he was assaulted by Champion J. Sprague, Dolleman said, adding that at some point after this, Megan L. O'Neill also struck the woman.
The alleged assailants all fled before the arrival of police, who later met up with the couple and the teen at Wentworth Douglass Hospital where they were all treated for what were describes as relatively minor injuries.
Dolleman said early on in their investigation of the case they learned the identity of the suspect car's owner, however, the identity of the other two ended up taking almost two months.
"We were able to ID the owner of the vehicle early on, but it was still a long investigation identifying the other two," Dolleman said. "However we were able to track where they had been in the downtown prior to the incident. We won't mention the other establishments, but we got several of them to cooperate in the investigation which helped a lot."
Gorham, Sprague and O'Neill were all charged with felony riot, which is when a group of at least three individuals (in concert) use the use or threat of violence, disorder, or terror on the public, resulting in a disturbance of the peace. It is punishable by three and a half to seven years in state prison.
Sprague, 24, of 18 Stillwater Circle, was also charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief (breaking side-view mirror of victims' car), and two simple assaults.
Gorham, 32, of 809 Salmon Falls Road, was also charged felony second-degree assault (strangulation), and a misdemeanor count of attempted simple assault (taking a swing at the teenager).
O'Neill, 26, of 8 Spruce St., was also charged misdemeanor simple assault (assaulting woman).
All three turned themselves into police Wednesday or Thursday after learning arrest warrants had been filed.
They were released on personal recognizance pending an arraignment on May 24 at Strafford County Superior Court.