Belfast Telegraph

US attack victim Natasha McShane spared ordeal of hearing court case details

BY MICHELLE SMYTH

The family of a Northern Irish woman left paralysed after she was brutally beaten in the US have not told her that the man accused of the attack will go on trial this week.

Exchange student Natasha McShane is now severely disabled and unable to walk or to talk after she was the victim of a savage mugging by a man wielding a baseball bat in a Chicago underpass on April 23, 2010.

Natasha's father, Liam, has said that the 27-year-old's family will attend court but she will not be told to avoid upsetting her.

He said: "We wouldn't say to her in case it brings back memories. Maybe someday if she can get better, she'll have to know.

"But I don't feel that I have to tell her now.

"You don't know what emotions (the trial) will bring to the surface. You wouldn't want to upset her."

The south Armagh woman was making her way home through the viaduct after a night out with her friend, Stacy Jurich, when the two were set upon.

The Silverbridge girl was out celebrating an internship which allowed her to extend her stay in the US.

Ms Jurich, whose injuries were considerably less severe, has recovered and returned to work.

Jury selection will begin in Chicago today for the trial of Heriberto Viramontes, the gang member accused of attacking the then 23-year-old.

He faces 25 felony accounts including attempted murder and armed robbery.

His alleged accomplice, girlfriend Marcy Cruz (28) pleaded guilty in July to two counts of attempted murder and was jailed for 22 years.

Cruz, who claims she acted as a getaway driver for her boyfriend, is due to testify against him.

Among some of the strongest evidence that will be shown at the trial is a video of Natasha depicting how much her life has changed, including clips of her trying to walk and drink.

Mr McShane told the Chicago Tribune that his daughter is now strong enough to take several steps on a walker as long as there are people at either side of her and revealed the family takes her to a swimming pool where she floats with the help of a therapist.

"She's only floating and kicking her legs, but she loves the pool. You know from her face, her eyes and her smile.

"I just tell her that 'you're doing well and your getting better. You're going to be 100% better'," he said.

Mr McShane added that the family are looking forward to getting the trial "over and done with" and forgetting about it.

BACKGROUND

Natasha McShane was left bleeding and unconscious after being beaten around the head with an aluminium baseball bat and robbed while walking home from a Chicago bar. She spent months in a critical condition in a US hospital and was placed in an induced coma as a result of swelling around her brain. After returning to Northern Ireland her recovery deteriorated and having battled a serious infection is unable to walk unaided or speak apart from occasionally murmuring "yes" or "no".

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