Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Family of Natasha McShane who was left brain damaged following attack in Chicago say it is a waste of energy hating her attackers

South Armagh woman Natasha McShane
South Armagh woman Natasha McShane

The family of assault victim Natasha McShane have vowed they will never get caught up in hatred of those responsible for her plight.

Relatives of the 27-year-old Armagh woman say they are seeking a tough sentence but are refusing to waste time thinking about those whose attack on a Chicago street left her unable to walk or talk.

Today, Cook County Criminal Court is due to hear from Marcy Cruz, one of the attackers, who will be giving evidence against her co-accused and former lover, Heriberto Viramontes.

Cruz has already been sentenced to 22 years after admitting two charges of attempted murder, but Viramontes denies attempting to murder Natasha McShane and her friend Stacy Jurich in April 2010 as they were walking home after a night out.

Natasha's grandmother Bernie McShane, who now helps to care for the former UCD student in Silverbridge, Co Armagh, says she hopes to see a sentence that "fits the crime" but doesn't like to think about the people who turned her granddaughter's life upside down.

"I would never dwell on them. Not over these last three years, I have never dwelled on them," she told a Sunday newspaper.

"My whole focus is on Natasha and the fact that we still have her. There's no point living your life and every day that comes and goes feeling bitter and twisted.

"I would never hate someone, get caught up in hatred. It doesn't get you anywhere and it doesn't help Natasha."

Natasha, who was 23 when she and Stacy were singled out in the random street attack, was flown home three months later.

In the time since she has undergone periods of progress, including times when she was able to say "yes" and "no", but had setbacks.

She was undergoing treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast when she caught a skin infection just as she was facing surgery to re-attach part of her skull.

A family friend explained: "The infection was followed by seizures and the progress just stopped."

Natasha had been on a student exchange with the University of Chicago, studying urban planning, when she was attacked. Viramontes is accused of beating Natasha with a baseball bat, causing brain damage.

The court has heard detectives traced calls from Stacy's mobile phone to an apartment block and these were linked to Cruz.

Cruz was arrested as she stepped into a grey Chevy van where detectives found the baseball bat alleged to have been used.

She is the key witness and will testify that she drove the van with Viramontes in the passenger seat. Prosecutors allege he tried to use Stacy's credit card after the attack.

The trial began with Stacy first to take the stand. Natasha's mother then told the jury her now severely disabled daughter's, and the family's life, had changed "utterly" since the attack.

BACKGROUND

South Armagh woman Natasha McShane was going home through a Chicago viaduct after a night out with her friend Stacy Jurich when the two were set upon. The Silverbridge girl was celebrating an internship to extend her stay in the US. Ms Jurich's injuries were less severe and she returned to work. Natasha is paralysed and brain-damaged.

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