Attacker who beat Irish exchange student gets 90 years
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter May 22, 2014 4:20PM
Liam and Sheila McShane, Natasha McShane's parents, enter court Thursday for the sentencing of Heriberto Viramontes. | Richard Chapman/Sun-Times
Updated: June 24, 2014 7:55AM
One by one, Heriberto Viramontes’ sisters, mother and niece took the stand Thursday, trying to convince Cook County Judge Jorge Alonso that their loved one was far from the “monster” who viciously beat and robbed two women as they made their way through a Bucktown viaduct after a celebratory dinner and a night of dancing.
The convicted felon’s female relatives loudly sobbed and recounted Viramontes’ suicide attempts following the death of his newborn son, the murder of his father, and how he was seduced by a 27-year-old drug addict when he was barely a teen.
While the judge acknowledged Viramontes’ misfortunes, he concluded that Chicago was “safer” with him behind bars and sentenced him to 90 years in prison for the infamous April 23, 2010 attack that severely injured a local woman and left an Irish exchange student struggling to walk and talk.
Alonso said Viramontes was motivated by “greed and hate” when he cracked Stacy Jurich and Natasha McShane’s skulls with a baseball bat and took their purses in the 1800 block of North Damen Avenue.
“You attacked them with all the force you could muster and you left them there to die,” Alonso said. “...Their only sin was believing it was safe to walk four or five blocks in the city of Chicago.”
After Jurich and McShane’s mother tearfully testified about the toll the attack took on their lives, 35-year-old Viramontes said he “could never understand the pain” Jurich and McShane experienced.
Viramontes — who State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez later described as the “personification of evil” — rendered a “God bless you” to all those in the courtroom but never apologized for his actions.
Before Viramontes was sentenced, Assistant State’s Attorneys John Maher and Margaret Ogarek played a recording of a phone call from jail in which Viramontes tells his girlfriend that he prays to God that McShane is “5,000 percent better.”
“Maybe this is good for the both of us. You know, maybe this is good for her, stop being in the f------ streets late at night drinking, especially in Chicago. And maybe it’s good for me to open my motherf------ eyes and see what the f--- I got in front of me,” Viramontes said in the recording.
Viramontes turned McShane into a “ghost” when he swung the bat, Maher said.
McShane, now 27, lives with her mother and sister in Northern Ireland where she requires 24-hour care.
She can now walk at home without a wheelchair, string “three or four words” together and uses a “communications book” to convey her thoughts, but “things we take for granted” will remain “a lifelong struggle for her,” McShane’s mother said.
“We keep asking ourselves, ‘Why Natasha?’ ‘Why us?’....She is still alive, but it feels we have lost her,” Sheila McShane said, dabbing her eyes. “...We can only assume Natasha is asking herself all the same questions and seeing that look of despair in her eyes makes it hard for us to move on.”
Regardless of the time Viramontes will be locked up, Natasha has been sentenced to a life of “pain, misery and unfulfillment,” her mother said.
Jurich, now 28 and engaged, told Alonso she still suffers seizures and migraines, has trouble with hand-eye coordination and can no longer drive a car or ride a bicycle.
“In an instant, I went from smiling and laughing to being on my knees dripping with blood wondering if Natasha was alive...,” Jurich said.
“I wake up...to the sound of my screams. I feel, taste and smell the blood still rushing out of my head. I wish the sounds of the bat breaking my head open would go away but they don’t.”
Jurich and Sheila McShane hugged for several seconds following the sentencing hearing.
Both women later told reporters they were pleased with Viramontes’ lengthy punishment.
“It provides us with some sense of justice for Natasha and Stacy,” Sheila McShane said, thanking Jurich for her bravery.
Jurich is relieved Viramontes can’t hurt anyone else.
“Thank you for the city of Chicago for being so supportive and it’s still a beautiful place for us to live,” Jurich said, her voice cracking.
Marcy Cruz, Viramontes’ former girlfriend and getaway driver in the crime, testified against him at trial and was sentenced last fall to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty to her role.
Contributing: Tina Sfondeles