COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — After she "felt an excruciating pain" and the taste of metal in her mouth, Stacy Jurich stumbled and then turned to see her friend beaten into a coma with the same bat with which she had just been hit, she testified in court Wednesday.
Through tears on the stand, Jurich recounted the beating and robbery of her and Natasha McShane, an Irish exchange student, underneath a Bucktown viaduct in 2010.
"I felt an excruciating pain and sort of lost my equilibrium. [There was] a taste in my mouth like a battery," she said of being hit from behind. McShane "went down immediately. She lifelessly just fell on to the sidewalk."
McShane was looking for a better education when she came to "this glittering city," but instead her life was changed forever by Chicago's "underbelly," Assistant State's Attorney Margaret Ogarek said in opening statements.
Chicago "is a beacon to young minds eager to find and seek out adventure, education, culture," Ogarek told jurors at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse. McShane "was one of those young people."
But on April 23, 2010, she and Jurich were walking home after dinner and a night out at a neighborhood bar when a man with a baseball bat emerged from "the shadows" and started swinging.
Prosecutors alleged that Heriberto Viramontes wrapped his fingers around the bat and jumped out of a van parked nearby with his girlfriend at the wheel. He snuck up behind the two women in the 1800 block of North Damen Avenue and "unleashed his violent rage," beating and robbing them.
But an attorney representing Viramontes — who is charged with 25 felony counts, including attempted murder and robbery — argued that one of the victims initially described their attacker as a black man in a hoodie. Viramontes, who is Hispanic, "was not under that viaduct," David Dunne said.
Jurich called 911, and told emergency responders what she could at the time as she fell in and out of consciousness at the time, she said in court.
She admitted under cross-examination that she never saw her attacker's face.
"I heard a voice and I saw the hands," she said.
Natasha McShane's mother Sheila also testified Wednesday, describing the lasting effects on her daughter nearly three years after the attack.
Sheila McShane said she cares for her daughter, who still uses a wheelchair and walker, in Ireland. She said her daughter used to be an artist, but her drawings are now mere scribbles.
More family members and supporters of both the victims and their alleged assailant packed a Cook County courtroom Wednesday.
Natasha’s father Liam McShane sat stonefaced and emotionless in the second row with the victim's sister, as tiny as Natasha, now 27, who stood a mere 4 feet, 9 inches.
Viramontes' sisters, all dressed in black, huddled across the aisle.
The accused man's attorney called his girlfriend, the co-defendant and one of the state's star witnesses, an opportunistic stripper.
"She will say anything to anyone at any time as long as it serves her interest," Dunne said, alleging that Marcy Cruz was broke and working as a stripper on the South Side at the time of the incident.
Cruz, 26, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and is expected to testify against Viramontes.
In addition to Sheila McShane's testimony and Cruz's testimony against Viramontes, 34, prosecutors showed three minutes of video footage of Natasha McShane showing her daily challenges.
McShane's mother described the seizures her daughter has suffered since returning to Ireland in 2010, one of which was so severe it broke her hip.
Expert witnesses who analyzed the DNA from the baseball bat will testify for prosecutors, too.
For friends in Chicago and family abroad, the trial has been a long time coming.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) expressed frustration with the slow road to the trial and said, "Most people think because [Viramontes and Cruz] are in jail, that justice has been served and the case is closed."
The trial resumes Thursday at 10:30 a.m.