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Jury Convicts Defendant In Baseball-Bat Attack Trial

Heriberto Viramontes (Credit: Cook County Sheriff)

Heriberto Viramontes (Credit: Cook County Sheriff)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A 34-year-old Chicago man has been found guilty in the 2010 baseball-bat attack on two women during a robbery in Bucktown.

Heriberto Viramontes faces up to more than 100 years in prison for his convictions on attempted murder, aggravated battery and armed robbery — 25 felony counts in all. A jury deliberated about four hours after receiving the case Thursday afternoon.

Prosecutors said Viramontes beat Natasha McShane, an exchange student from Northern Ireland, and her friend Stacy Jurich as they walked home after a night of dancing in April 2010.

“We are very pleased and relieved that the jury came to the decision that it did, holding this man, Viramontes, accountable and responsible for the brutal beating of Natasha McShane and Stacy Jurich,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said.

Alvarez noted the pain experienced by McShane’s family, given the debilitating injuries the woman still suffers.

“Their beautiful daughter who came here went back home not being the same daughter,” she said. “Their pain continues, because Natasha has been changed forever.”

“The last 3 1/2 years have been the hardest time in my entire life,” Jurich told reporters. “Not only was it a struggle for me, but it was a struggle to have to face what happened to my best friend, Natasha – something that I’ll never forget.”

Prosecutors have said Viramontes wanted to rob McShane and Jurich, after seeing the pair walking toward a viaduct in Bucktown on April 23, 2010.

Stacy Jurich (left) and Natasha McShane were beaten with a bat in the Bucktown neighborhood in 2010.

Stacy Jurich (left) and Natasha McShane were beaten with a bat in the Bucktown neighborhood in 2010.

McShane, now 27, ended up in a coma for several weeks, and is still unable to talk, or walk unassisted. Her family traveled to Chicago from Northern Ireland to attend the trial.

McShane’s mother, Sheila McShane, testified her once-vibrant daughter used to be a good sketch artist, but now only scribbles. Jurors also saw a video showing her struggling to take a sip of water. Her mother said she also has suffered infections and seizures as a result of her injuries.

Jurich, now 27, testified against Viramontes at trial, although she was unable to identify him as her attacker. Although her injuries were not as severe as McShane’s, she said she still suffers intense headaches and vision loss.

She described the attack for the jury, saying she “felt excruciating pain” after she heard the sound of the bat striking her head. She said her skull was cracked open by the force of the blow.

Both women, then studying at the University of Illinois at Chicago, were beaten unconscious and left on the street. She said she saw the bat strike McShane in the head. Jurich said McShane immediately fell down, face-first, and was not moving, as blood poured from her head.

Viramontes’ co-defendant, Marcy Cruz, also testified against him, in exchange for a 22-year sentence on her own charges. She told the jury, after having sex with Viramontes in her van, he launched the attack.

Though she admitted she didn’t see Viramontes attack the victims, she said he grabbed a baseball bat from the van, and jumped out of the car, then returned a short time later, and told her “he did some bogus (expletive).” Cruz also said Viramotes told her “the girls were very pretty.”

However, defense attorneys have said Viramontes is a victim of mistaken identity. They called several police officers, who testified that Jurich first told officers her attacker could have been black. Detectives even questioned two black men who fit Jurich’s initial description, but those men were not arrested.

Another detective testified Jurich later changed her description of her attacker, saying he might have been Hispanic.

Viramontes, who declined the opportunity to testify in his own defense, is due back in court Nov. 20, when the judge will hear post-trial motions.