Harrowing account of brutal attack
Tuesday, 22 October 2013
THE mother of Silverbridge woman Natasha McShane, who was brutally attacked in Chicago in April 2010, was led from court on Friday in tears after hearing a brain surgeon talk about her daughter's injuries.
Natasha, who was 23 at the of the attack, was studying urban planning at the University of Illinois as part of an exchange programme.
Following a night out in the Bucktown area of the city to celebrate her graduation of the programme, Natasha and her American friend Stacy Jurich were attacked as they walked home under a viaduct. Both women were hit on the back of the head with an aluminium baseball bat. The attacker took purses from both victims and fled.
The trial of Heriberto Viramontes, 34, who is accused of attempting to murder the two women began on Wednesday at Cook County Criminal Court. Mary Cruz, his former girlfriend, pleaded guilty to attempted murder in July and accepted a plea deal for 22 years in prison, and will now testify against Viramontes.
As the trial began on Wednesday, defence for Viramontes said what happened was an absolute tragedy but his client was an innocent man and that Cruz would say "anything to anyone at any time to serve her purpose".
Prosecution said Viramontes had attacked Natasha and her friend in a violent rage, and that while the girls were "fighting for their lives in excruciating pain the defendant and Marcy Cruz went off on a spending spree with the proceeds from the robbery".
Images were shown to the jury of Viramontes at petrol station less than half an hour after the attack, which prosecutors say is where he tried to use Ms Jurich's credit card.
Giving evidence, Ms Jurich, who needed 15 staples in her head as a result of the attack, said: "I heard my head being hit and I felt excruciating pain. The back of my skull was cracked open."
She said she then witnessed her friend, who is much smaller, being attacked: "She went down immediately, her face just fell into the sidewalk. She was not moving on the ground. The blood started to come out of her head."
Natasha's parents Liam and Sheila, along with her brother and sister, are in Chicago for the trial. Mrs McShane took to the stand on the opening day to describe how her daughter remains severely disabled, is unable to walk without support and is barely able to communicate.
The jury were shown a video of Natasha, who was wearing a helmet, being helped by her mother as she tried to walk, and then shakily trying to drink a cup of tea. The jury were told that Natasha was once an artistic, lively young woman but now there is no conversation and her balance and vision are badly impaired.
Mrs McShane said Natasha had been making good progress and had begun to talk again after returning home a few months after the attack, but a seizure and infections had left her in a wheelchair and weakened her further.
“We do not have conversations - as a mother I can understand what she's trying to tell me. She does not speak," Mrs McShane said.
On Thursday the Cook County Criminal Court heard evidence from a trauma surgeon who treated Ms McShane who said a stone was discovered lodged in her throat after the attack.
The 27-year-old's injuries were so serious that a brain surgeon was immediately told of her admission to the hospital. The surgeon told the court that Natasha had suffered a traumatic brain injury, with blood discovered both inside and outside the skull.
On Friday, Mrs McShane was led from the court after hearing from the brain surgeon who treated Natasha. He said she would have died had an emergency operation not been carried out to remove part of her skull and relieve pressure on her brain.
Mrs McShane stayed out of the court for a few minutes before returning to hear surgeon Leonard Kranzler explain how the left side of her brain was damaged - which controls speech, understanding, movement on the right side and some vision. Dr Kranzler said that Natasha's heart and respiratory functions would have been affected had an operation not been carried out - "That's considered premonition of death," he said.
Yesterday (Monday), Cruz was expected to take to the stand to give evidence against her former partner. The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.
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