COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A man convicted of a 2010 vicious bat beating in Bucktown that left two young women seriously injured was sentenced to 90 years in prison Thursday.
Earlier, the mother of Natasha McShane, one of two women who were beaten with a baseball bat, said her daughter's debilitating brain injuries meant the young woman would serve a life sentence of her own.
"Their only sin was believing it was safe to walk four to five blocks in the city of Chicago," Cook County Associate Judge Jorge Alonso said of McShane and her friend Stacy Jurich, the victims of Heriberto Viramontes, adding there was little chance of Viramontes being rehabilitated.
Viramontes, 35, who wept at times during Thursday's hearing, hung his head as the sentence was being handed down. Convicted last year of attempted murder in the robbery and attack, he faced as much as 120 years in prison.
Sheila McShane, mother of Natasha McShane, testified during the sentencing hearing that her daughter, now 27, is recuperating in her native Northern Ireland from the injuries suffered when hit by the bat, a moment "her life came to an abrupt halt in the most incomprehensible way."
She is unable to walk and only recently able to string together three or four coherent words, her mother said.
"A swing of a bat is what robbed our beautiful daughter and sister of her future," Sheila McShane said. "This is what greeted her on that morning and it will haunt us for the rest of our lives."
Once bright, energetic and full of ambition, Sheila McShane said her daughter was reduced in the attack to someone with little to no independence who struggles just to get through the day.
Natasha McShane, who needed parts of her brain removed to relieve pressure from the swelling after the attack, undergoes therapy and is slowly regaining the use of her right hand. She points at pictures in a book to help her communicate, her mother said.
Still, a team of 10 people provide care for the young woman throughout the week at her home, in addition to her family. Caregivers are "trying to get her to be a wee bit independent," the mother said.
"Whatever the outcome of this will be, one thing is for certain, Natasha will have a life sentence of her own to serve, a life sentenced of pain, misery, and unfulfillment," her mother said, reading from a statement prepared by her other two children.
The bat beating attracted an international spotlight, especially from news media in Northern Ireland where McShane lived before coming here as a foreign exchange student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prosecutors said her injuries "literally turned Natasha McShane into a ghost."
Jurich, who continues to suffer seizures as a result of her injuries, said on the stand Thursday: "I wake every night 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 won't," she went on.
Credited as a hero for saving Natasha's life, Jurich said recounted seeing her best friend lying unconscious in a pool of blood, wondering if she was dead or alive.
A graduate student, McShane was studying urban planning while looking for opportunities that would allow her to stay here. That all changed one night in April of 2010, when McShane, 23 at the time, and Jurich were passing under a viaduct in the 1800 block of North Damen Avenue on their way home from a night out.
Viramontes, labeled a part of Chicago's "underbelly" by prosecutors, emerged from the shadows with a wooden baseball bat and started swinging. After hitting both girls over the head, he grabbed their possessions and ran back to a van around the corner, where his getaway driver girlfriend was waiting.
According to the girlfriend, Viramontes returned with two purses and told her "the girls were really pretty and did some bogus ----."
A jury found Viramontes guilty in October of attempted murder, armed robbery and multiple charges of aggravated battery after a two-week trial and about three hours of deliberation.
Taking the stand Thursday, Viramontes asked for a sentence that would allow a "healing process" for his family as well as they victims. "I could never understand the pain that Natasha McShane and Stacy Jurich have experienced," he said.
Various family members of Viramontes took the stand Thursday to support him. They said he tried to commit suicide after one of his twin sons died.
His attorney, Chandra Smith, said Viramontes' father was murdered when he was 1, that he has a learning disability and that he had a 27-year-old girlfriend when he was 13.
"Consider who he is and what he has gone through," Smith said.
But Cook County Judge Jorge Alonso decided Chicago would be a safer place with Viramontes behind bars and sentenced him to 90 years in prison.
Following the sentence, Jurich let out a big breath and family members of the two victims hugged outside the courtroom.
Before leaving the courthouse she and Natasha McShane's mother spoke briefly to reporters, thanking the prosecutors' office and expressing their satisfaction with the long sentence Judge Alonso handed down.
"We are pleased with the sentence," Sheila McShane said. "It provides us with some sense of justice for Natasha and for Stacy."
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