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updated: 10/16/2013 5:21 PM

Baseball bat beating described as trial begins

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  • Heriberto Viramontes

    Heriberto Viramontes

Associated Press

The trial of a man accused of beating two women with a baseball bat in Chicago began Wednesday with one of the victims tearfully describing the attack and the other victim's mother showing video of her severely injured daughter, who can no longer walk and can barely communicate.

Stacy Jurich told jurors she and Natasha McShane, an Irish exchange student, were brutally beaten and robbed as they walked to their Chicago home on a spring evening in 2010.

"I heard my head being hit and I felt excruciating pain," Jurich said. "The back of my skull was cracked open."

Heriberto Viramontes, 33, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery and armed robbery. His public defender said prosecutors have the wrong suspect.

Jurich, now 27, described the attack, which happened under a viaduct after a night of dancing in April 2010. Both women, then studying at the University of Illinois at Chicago, were beaten unconscious and left on the street. She said she saw the bat strike McShane in the head.

"She went down immediately, her face just fell into the sidewalk," Jurich, who needed 15 staples in her head, testified. "She was not moving on the ground. The blood started coming out of her head."

McShane's mother, Sheila McShane, said her once-vibrant daughter used to be a good sketch artist but now only scribbles. A video showed the 27-year-old woman struggling to take a sip of water. McShane said her daughter also suffered infections and seizures.

"She just went into a fit of shaking so bad she had a hip fracture," Sheila McShane said.

During opening statements, a prosecutor said Viramontes "unleashed his violent rage" on the women. But Viramontes' public defender, David Dunn, said his client is a victim of mistaken identity.

"To this day Miss Jurich has not seen any lineup and been able to say `Yes or no. That's the person who was under the viaduct,' " Dunn said. He also said there is no DNA evidence linking Viramontes to the crimes.

Prosecutors said Viramontes' fingerprints are on McShane's belongings, and said they have video of him using Jurich's credit card later that evening at a gas station.

Prosecutors plan to call Viramontes' former girlfriend, Marcy Cruz, to testify. Authorities say she drove Viramontes after the beatings. Cruz pleaded guilty this summer to two attempted murder charges; as part of the plea deal, she'll be sentenced to 11 years for each count after testifying.

Assistant Public Defender Chandra Smith said the defense also would call a witness who says he saw a different man with a baseball bat in the area shortly before the attack.

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