CHICAGO (CBS) – The jury was selected Tuesday in the trial of the man charged with beating two women with a baseball bat in Bucktown in 2010, leaving one of them with severe brain damage.
Natasha McShane, an exchange student from Northern Ireland, was in a coma for weeks. She is still unable to speak after the attack, although the Chicago Tribune reported she recently began taking steps with a walker, as long as people stood at her sides.
She and her friend, Stacy Juirch, were robbed and beaten unconscious on April 23, 2010, as they were walking back to Jurich’s home after going out dancing.
Jurich was lucky to escape the attack with less serious injuries, needing staples in her head. She suffered some cognitive deficiencies, but nothing as severe as McShane’s.
Their alleged attacker, Heriberto Viramontes, goes on trial this week for the attack, which drew international headlines. Jury selection was scheduled to begin Tuesday morning at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building at 26th and California. His alleged accomplice, Marcy Cruz, will testify against him, after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a 22-year prison sentence, and immunity from a murder charge if McShane dies from her injuries.
McShane’s family flew in from Northern Ireland this week to be at the trial, but McShane – 23 at the time of the attack – is still in Northern Ireland. Her family wanted to protect her from any painful memories of the beating.
McShanes’ family walked into the Leighton Criminal Courts Building early Tuesday, but walked out not long after. It was unclear why, but possibly because Tuesday will be dedicated to jury selection, with opening statements not likely until Wednesday at the earliest.
John Gorski of the Irish American Heritage Center is assisting the family in Chicago.
“Hopefully the jury sees what the effects were and feels the pain we all felt over what happened,” said Gorski.
CBS 2′s Derrick Blakely reports Viramontes appeared relaxed and was actively participating with his defense team at times, he smiled and winked at relatives in the courtroom.
Prosecutors have said Viramontes took an aluminum bat and repeatedly struck McShane and Jurich, in order to rob them. He faces 25 felony counts, including attempted murder and armed robbery.
Cruz, 28, has admitted she was waiting inside a van when Viramontes attacked McShane and Jurich, then used one of the victims’ credit cards after he robbed them.
Jurich also could take the stand against Viramontes.
Prosecutors also plan to show jurors McShane’s passport and ID, and a state-issued ID card, which were found in the trash at the suspects’ homes.
They also plan to show the jury a video of McShane after the beating – including images of her trying to walk – to demonstrate the severity of her condition after the attack.
Several Irish journalists have traveled to Chicago to cover the trial, which was front page news on the Belfast Telegraph on Tuesday.
“It’s important to support the family. It’s a foreign land, it’s a big city,” said John Gorski, president of the Irish American Heritage Center. “They came here for help. Natasha came here for an education, and a better life, and she didn’t leave that way.”
The IAHC planned to have a representative at the trial every day.