Belfast Telegraph

22 years in US prison for Natasha McShane co-accused as her dad pleads for forgiveness

By JOHN BRESLIN

A key witness against the man convicted of attempting to murder Armagh graduate Natasha McShane in Chicago has been formally sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Marcy Cruz, a 28-year-old mother-of-two, was the getaway driver after her lover Heriberto Viramontes beat and robbed the Silverbridge woman and her friend Stacy Jurich in Chicago in April 2010.

Following the sentencing at Cook County Criminal court in the US city yesterday, Cruz's father Edwin said his daughter and he want to apologise to the victims.

"I don't know if they might have the heart to forgive me. I know (Marcy) wants the best for Natasha, for her to recover the most and for her to get healthy again," Cruz said.

Three years after the attack, Natasha (27) remains severely disabled, unable to walk unaided and barely able to talk.

The south Armagh woman was a Masters graduate from UCD on an exchange programme in Chicago when she was attacked.

Her family travelled to the US last week to see the man responsible for the attack on the bright and bubbly young student face trial.

Cruz was a powerful witness against 34-year-old Viramontes, convicted last week on 10 charges, including the attempted murders of the two young women.

She had agreed to the sentence as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. She pleaded guilty to two charges of attempted murder, receiving an 11-year sentence for each of the crimes, to be served consecutively.

Under Illinois state sentencing rules for serious crimes, she will serve 85% and with time served will be released in 16 years.

Viramontes faces up to 120 years, essentially life in a state penitentiary, when he is sentenced, likely before the end of the year.

Cruz testified that she waited in her van as Viramontes picked up a baseball bat to go looking for "white hos" to beat and rob.

He was back with her in the van with two purses in around three minutes.

As the pair rifled through the purses, he told Cruz: "They were really pretty girls. I did some bogus s***."

Edwin Cruz said Viramontes was "the wrong person to be with, but it's too late now".

He added: "What happened has happened, and we just have to deal with it and we have to be strong.

"I'm glad finally the chapter of the story is finally over.

"There's still more to go and hopefully justice will be done (at Viramontes' sentencing)."

Mr Cruz and his wife are raising their daughter's children, aged seven and four.

QUOTE

"I don't know if they might have the heart to forgive me. I know (Marcy) wants the best for Natasha, for her to recover the most and for her to get healthy again.

"What happened has happened, and we just have to deal with it and we have to be strong. I'm glad finally the chapter of the story is finally over."

Edwin Cruz after his daughter Marcy Cruz was sentenced to 22 years in prison for her role in the attack on Natasha McShane

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