Wheels of Justice Turn Slowly for Victims of Bucktown Bat Beating
BUCKTOWN — Time passes and public memories fade. But for those connected to the terrible 2010 beating of an Irish exchange student and her friend, every court hearing brings fresh reminders.
This ugly chapter in Bucktown history won't be closing anytime soon.
The savage assault that left 23-year-old Irish exchange student Natasha McShane in a coma and suffering from brain damage continues to plod along in pre-trial hearings almost three years after the attack happened.
"What we all want is not going to happen as fast as we want it to," Cook County Judge Jorge L. Alonso told a group of public defenders and prosecutors during a hearing earlier this month.
It’s been a long road to a jury trial for Heriberto Viramontes, 33, and Marcy Cruz, 26, charged in the 3:30 a.m. brutal attack on April 23, 2010.
Prosecutors say that Cruz waited in a van as Viramontes allegedly used a baseball bat to beat McShane and her friend Stacy Jurich from behind as they walked under a viaduct at 1800 N. Damen Avenue. The women were en route home after a night on the town.
Viramontes and Cruz were originally charged only with armed robbery and aggravated battery but prosecutors later added attempted murder charges.
Today, McShane lives with her family in the rural community of Silverbridge in Northern Ireland.
“[She] still cannot speak beyond mumbles and she cannot walk or take care of herself," said friend Joe McShane, a Chicago musician and family friend who speaks with the woman's father, Liam, on a monthly basis.
The woman’s father recently told him that "nothing much has changed."
"She's made slight improvements but they're so small nobody would notice. Bottom line, the gal, her life is totally destroyed," Joe McShane said.
Brian Burrow, a local bar manager who's kept in contact with the Jurich family, said Stacy Jurich "wants to move on, talk about happier things."
The father of Cruz regularly attends his daughter's hearings.
"I’ve gotta support her, she’s still my daughter," said Edwin Cruz, a 54-year-old auto mechanic who lives in Humboldt Park.
Still, he says of the two women injured in the attack: “I hope the best for Stacy and Natasha — they’re the innocent victims. I wish I could reach out, but I feel like I’d be rejected."
Edwin Cruz, who has been raising his only daughter's two children, age 6 and 3, said that Marcy Cruz "should have been with her kids at 3 a.m." and not out on the streets.
But Edwin Cruz also believes his daughter should be tried separately from Viramontes.
"She was three blocks away, in a car, smoking cannabis, drinking and taking a sedative... She has been in St. Mary’s Hospital, the crazy house on the 15th floor before," he said.
Marcy Cruz appears not to have a violent criminal record. But she was arrested in 2002 for trespassing and again in 2005 for disorderly conduct.
Viramontes was busted for cocaine as a 17 year old in 1996 and his first domestic violence arrest came soon after. He was sentenced to four years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for burglary in 1999.
After his arrest following the Bucktown beating, Viramontes was charged with arranging to have pot brought in to Cook County jail.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said the long time that's passed since the crime has caused the brutal event to slip off many people's radars.
"Most people think because [Viramontes and Cruz] are in jail, that justice has been served and the case is closed," Waguespack said.
Waguespack has been following the status hearings with help from an assistant, Kerri Stojack, and volunteer court advocate Joe Kopera.
"It's been frustrating to see that as crime is spiking we are sitting here years later later and these two haven't gotten to trial,” the alderman said. “I would like to see law come down on them for the crime that they committed."
Cook County Assistant Public Defender Chandra Smith, representing Viramontes, said she believes the case "will go into trial sometime this year" and described the pace it's moving as "average."
A public defender representing Marcy Cruz was unable to comment.
The next court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27.
Like Waguespack, Joe McShane fears that “the longer it goes, the more people will forget."
“After a while people calm. I hope [Viramontes] gets what’s coming to him. Time is a healer for a lot of things but I hope it’s not a healer for him," he said.