A JURY has found a man guilty of the attempted murder of Northern Ireland woman Natasha McShane and her friend Stacy Jurich in Chicago three years ago.
Heriberto Viramontes was convicted at Cook County Criminal Court in the US city on Thursday.
The pair were were attacked and robbed in the early hours of April 23, 2010.
Ms McShane, who had been attending the University of Illinois at the time of the assault, has been left with severe brain damage.
Her attacker struck her on the head with a baseball bat.
Her family were in court for the five-day trial.
According to press reports in Chicago, there were emotional scenes as the guilty verdicts were delivered.
The family issued a statement on behalf of the McShane family.
It was written by her brother, who said they were pleased and relieved at the verdicts.
However, he also said Natasha’s life had been ruined by the attack.
Viramontes’ accomplice Marcy Cruz was jailed for 22 years in July this year after pleading guilty to two counts of attempted murder over the attack.
She had given evidence against him at his trial which could now help her get a reduction in her sentence and free her early from a Chicago jail.
After deliberating for a little over three hours, the jury found has been found guilty on 10 counts in total of attempted first-degree murder, armed robbery and aggravated battery in the April 2010 attack and robbery.
Heriberto Verimontes, left, has been found guilty on call counts in the brutal 2010 attack on Natasha McShane (right) and Stacy Jurich that left the once bubbly McShane unable to walk or speak
‘Behold Heriberto Viramontes, every parent’s nightmare,’ prosecuting attorney John Maher said to the jury during closing arguments Thursday as he held the baseball bat that left McShane a shell of her former self.
‘Whatever happened to the days of polite society when an armed robber would have said “Give me all of your stuff?”‘ Maher continued, the bat resting on his shoulder. ‘Do you think those two girls would have put up a fight?’
While they deliberated, the jury requested to hear calls Viramontes made from the jail house in which he reportedly said ‘I was high. I did some stupid s***. But it wasn’t like that. I hit her once. I hit the other b**** once.’
They also asked to see photos of Viramontes’ tattoos, which prosecutors said could be made out in security camera footage from a gas station store where they say he used one of the girls’ stolen credit cards following the attack.
McShane’s family in Northern Ireland got the news around Midnight their time as they surrounded their once vibrant Natasha.
Family: Natasha McShane’s father Liam, left, sister and brother arrive with other friends and family at the Leighton Criminal Court Building last Thursday
Following the verdict, her aunt Caroline McShane said: “We’re just glad it’s over and Natasha can start building her life again.
“All of the evidence is stacked against him. I would expect anyone to find him guilty of everything. He deserves whatever sentence he gets,” she added.
What that sentence will be remains unclear, but in his powerful closing arguments, Assistant State’s Attorney Maher did his best to paint Viramontes as a monster who deserve the longest term possible.
‘Heriberto Viramontes takes what he wants. Sometimes at the end of a bat,’ he said. ‘He took Natasha McShane’s future. He took joy from her family. He burdened them with a lifetime of caring for her.’
A key witness gave revealing testimony Monday in the shocking case of a foreign exchange student from Northern Ireland beaten within inches of her life during a Chicago robbery in 2010.
Marcy Cruz detailed to the court what she saw the night Heriberto Viramontes is accused of brutally beating Natasha McShane and Stacy Jurich, both 27, leaving McShane paralyzed and unable to speak.
‘He told me, “Look at all these white ho’s,” that he wanted to rob one of them,’ Cruz testified.
Cruz, a former stripper and mother of two young children also testified that Viramontes, 34, took a baseball bat from Cruz’s van before disappearing into the early morning darkness.
She waited just long enough to listen to one song on the radio while she smoked some marijuana.
When Viramonte returned, Cruz told the court that he carried with him two purses and told her to drive off.
They divvied up the contents of the purse and Cruz took some Dior perfume and makeup.
‘He stated that the girls were really pretty and that he did some bogus (stuff),’ Cruz said.
Prosecutors say that ‘bogus stuff’ was what left McShane disabled for life and her friend Jurich unable to ever forget what she saw.
Cruz said she’d met Viramontes through her boyfriend, though she admitted to having had sex with him in the van that tragic April night before the girls were beaten.
Cruz also admitted to having falsified parts of the story to the police, but now says she only did so to try and stay out of trouble.
Earlier this year, she pleaded guilty to attempted murder and agreed to testify against Viramontes as part of a plea deal.
Cruz was sentenced to 22 years.
Last week Jurich sobbed on the witness stand as she recounted the horrific beating she and Natasha McShane, a Northern Irish exchange student, suffered in Bucktown in Chicago three years ago.
McShane, who had been in Chicago for just three months at the time of the attack, suffered the worst injuries and is now unable to walk or talk and requires around-the-clock care.
Jurich recalled in court how, after a night of dancing on April 23, 2010, they were walking through a lit viaduct when she was smacked across the back of her head, the Chicago Tribune reported.
‘I heard my head being hit and felt excruciating pain and sort of lost my equilibrium and just had this taste in my mouth almost like a battery or metallic flavor,’ Jurich testified.
Her skull was cracked open and she stumbled to see McShane being hit across the head with a bat.
‘She went down immediately,’ Jurich said. ‘She just lifelessly fell into the sidewalk.’
The attacker then struck her again, she said, and called her a ‘stupid b****’ as he tore the women’s purses from them and fled.
Jurich cried as she looked at a photograph of the red jacket she used to try to stop the blood pouring from her friend’s head.
‘The blood started coming out of her head,’ she explained. ‘I took off my jacket and tried to support her head as well as I could. Then I got up and ran for help.’
McShane’s family flew from Silverbridge in County Armagh, Northern Ireland for the trial.
They had previously said they were not going to tell their daughter about the trial as they did not want to bring back painful memories.
Her mother Sheila testified about her daughter’s devastating injuries – and how she has changed from the vibrant, outgoing student to a woman combined to a wheelchair and unable to speak.
Sheila sometimes referred to her daughter in the past tense as she testified.
The jury was shown three videos of McShane’s daily struggles. One showed her struggling to drink from a cup – using both of her hands and lowering her head to drink.
Her parents must cut her food and she is unable to tell them when she needs the bathroom.
She has gained weight because of her lack of mobility and can only say ‘Sinn’ – the Gaelic word for ‘we’ or ‘us’.
Jurich needed 15 staples in her head after the attack but has been able to return to work. She testified that she is too frightened to drive after losing her peripheral vision in the beating.
Assistant State’s Attorney Margaret Ogarek said there was evidence tying Viramontes to the attack, such as his fingerprints on McShane’s bag which was later found at a gas station.
An alleged accomplice, Marcy Cruz, 28, claimed that he had spoken about robbing someone that night and after she parked the car, he jumped out before returning with the two purses.
But Viramontes’ lawyer, Assistant Public Defender David Dunne, told jurors the attack was a tragedy but that his client had nothing to do with it.
He said that Jurich had first called her attacker a black man but Viramontes is Hispanic.