Man Gets 90 Years in Irish Student's Bat Beating

"One moment I went from being smiling and laughing to being on my knees in a pool of my own blood."

A man convicted of savagely beating two women during a robbery in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood was sentenced Thursday to 90 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Heriberto Viramontes, 37, sneaked up on Irish exchange student Natasha McShane and her friend, Stacy Jurich, in April 2010 with a baseball bat and began striking the women, stealing the contents of their purses before fleeing. The beating left McShane unable to speak or walk on her own, and Jurich still suffers complications and cannot work.

"My future, my dreams, my life were permanently altered when this man intentionally hit me in the head with a bat," Jurich said Thursday in court.

"One thing is for certain," McShane's mother, Sheila McShane, said. "Natasha will have a life sentence of her own. A life sentence of pain, misery and unfulfillment."

Heriberto Viramontes was ordered to serve consecutive sentences of 25 years for the attempted murder of McShane, 25 years for the attempted murder of Jurich, 20 years for armed robbery and 20 years for causing great bodily harm.

The judge said a "significant sentence is necessary."

Jurich said she cannot work and battles with continuous seizures, regular migraines, problems with balance and the use of the left side of her body.

"One moment I went from being smiling and laughing to being on my knees in a pool of my own blood."

Sheila McShane testified that her daughter shows small improvements but still requires 24-hour care and five days of therapy a week. She still can only string two or three words together at a time, and though she can now take a few steps on her own, McShane said her daughter is generally confined to a wheelchair.

"She is still alive," Sheila McShane said, "but it feels as if we lost her and that's a scar that will never heal. As Natasha's parents, we feel as if we are rearing our 27-year-old daughter all over again."

Viramontes' sister, Veronica Ramos, also spoke in court.

"He is not a monster as you put him," Ramos said. "He is a very nice man. He has children of his own. "

A Cook County jury deliberated for a little more than three hours in October before convicting Viramontes. Jurich began crying when the verdict was announced, clutching the hand of a loved one.

The prosecution took about a week to make its case against Viramontes. The defense team took a few hours in an attempt to prove their client wasn't the man who attacked the women beneath the viaduct in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood.

Viramontes did not take the stand in his own defense.

Ramos said at the time the family was furious becasue the judge did not wait for them to read the verdict.

"They didn't have the audacity to wait for [my mom]" she said. "They are going through pain like we are going through pain. My mom had a right to be here."

Ramos said she stands by her brother's innocence.

Jurors heard recorded jailhouse calls in which Viramontes admitted to his girlfriend that he committed the violent mugging. Kira Lundgren testified that Viramontes was agitated the night of the attack and wouldn't let her read media accounts of it.

Viramontes' ex-girlfriend, Marcy Cruz, took the stand as part of her plea deal with prosecutors. She was with Viramontes the night of the attack and told jurors the bat used in the attack belonged to the father of her children. She said Viramontes grabbed it before getting out of the van with intentions of robbing McShane and Jurich.

The defense tried to paint Cruz as a liar, saying she changed her statement to police about whether Viramontes took a bat from her van to beat Jurich and McShane. But prosecutors said Cruz admitted to police she saw Viramontes take the bat and put it up his sleeve.

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