Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Two charged with vicious assault on Ulster student in Chicago

Charged: Marcy Cruz
Charged: Heriberto Viramontes
Natasha McShane from Silverbridge in south Armagh

A man and a woman will today appear in a US court following the vicious baseball-bat attack that left Northern Ireland student Natasha McShane fighting for her life in an American hospital.

Chicago pair Heriberto Viramontes (30) and Marcy Cruz (25), were each charged with two counts of aggravated battery and two armed robbery offences on Ms McShane (23), and her 24-year-old American friend Stacy Jurich in the city on Friday morning.

The pair were robbed of their belongings and beaten near a railroad viaduct in the city’s Bucktown neighbourhood.

Co Armagh woman Natasha, a former Queen’s University student now based at the University of Illinois, and Stacy had been on their way to Ms Jurich’s home when the vicious attack occured.

Ms McShane, from Silverbridge, sustained serious head injuries during the assault.

Both women were knocked unconscious and transferred to the intensive care unit of Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital.

Ms McShane remains in a critical condition, although Ms Jurich's condition has been upgraded from serious to “fair”.

Chicago police said last night that the a baseball bat believed to have been used in the incident had been recovered.

The arrest reports revealed that mobile phone records and credit cards stolen from the two women had allowed police to track the “persons of interest”.

Cruz has been arrested in the past for minor crimes, but never charged.

Viramontes, meanwhile, has felony convictions for burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle and about 30 other arrests on his record.

Natasha had been out that fateful night helping Stacy celebrate a glowing job review she had just received.

Her parents, Liam and Shiela, have been at her bedside since arrving in Chicago on Sunday.

Last night Natasha’s grandmother Bernadette McShane told the Belfast Telegraph there had been little improvement in her granddaughter’s condition.

“She’s still critical but stable, according to her parents who are thankfully now with her, and that gives us all at home here a little chink of hope,” she said.

Ms McShane had been working part-time for the last few months at Butch McGuire’s Irish Pub on Chicago’s Division Street.

Fellow employees and patrons have been raising money for her, according to pub owner Bobby McGuire.

Ms Jurich worked for a Morgan Stanley Smith Barney brokerage office in the west suburbs of the city.

Last week, her mother, Wendy Gay Van Etten, called her “a wonderful girl. “I wish there were more Stacys in the world and less people like the son of gun who tried to take her out,” she said.

According to the mother, Stacy was struck in the back of the head and was stumbling, dazed, when Natasha was struck in the head and left to crumple to the ground, unconscious, in a pool of blood.

When Stacy tried to help her friend, she was struck in the head again, her mother said.

Ms Jurich knew she needed to escape and screamed for a taxi to stop, but the driver saw the blood on her clothes and kept going.

A second cabbie stopped and called 911 as the American woman passed out.

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