Natasha McShane's tearful mother led from Chicago court

Natasha McShane Natasha McShane would have died had surgeons not performed an emergency brain operation

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The mother of a County Armagh student who suffered extensive brain injuries in an attack in Chicago three years ago was led crying from a court in the city on Friday.

Sheila McShane had heard a brain surgeon describe the life-threatening damage done to her daughter Natasha.

She would have died had an emergency operation not been carried out.

Heriberto Viramontes is accused of the attempted murder of Ms McShane and her friend Stacy Jurich in April 2010.

Surgeon Leonard Kranzler, of Illinois Masonic Hospital, carried out the emergency operation on Ms McShane, removing part of her skull and brain to relieve pressure caused by swelling.

Sheila McShane stayed out of court for just a few minutes before returning to hear Dr Kranzler detail how the brain was damaged on the left side, an area that controls speech, understanding, some vision functions and movement on the right side of the body.

To this day, Cook County Criminal Court has heard, Ms McShane is severely impaired in all these functions.

'Considerable force'

If an operation had not been carried out the heart and respiratory functions would have been affected.

"That's considered premonition of death," said Dr Kranzler.

The surgeon said they removed part of the skull and the bone flap covering the brain.

Later surgeons discovered a blood vessel had closed, often seen in stroke victims, further affecting her vision.

"Considerable force" was used to cause the skull fracture. It was blunt force trauma that could have been caused by a blow from a baseball bat, the surgeon said.

The friends were attacked under a viaduct as they walked home together after a night out in Chicago on 23 April 2010.

Ms McShane, from Silverbridge in County Armagh, was a 23-year-old student attending the University of Illinois at the time of the assault.

Heriberto Viramontes Heriberto Viramontes is accused of the attempted murder of Natasha McShane

She had been on an exchange programme, studying urban planning.

On the third day of the trial the court also heard that a wallet containing Mr Viramontes' state identification was found in the back of a van detectives believed was linked to the beatings of Ms McShane and Ms Jurich, who also suffered serious injuries in the attack.

Arrested

Nearby was a baseball bat with grey duct tape, said the area commander of detectives who personally led the investigation into what became known as the Bucktown beatings.

Detectives had traced mobile phone records to an apartment block and were also working on descriptions of suspects, a male and female, both light-skinned Hispanics, the court heard.

The calls were made from Stacy Jurich's mobile and were linked to a Marcy Cruz. This was just three days after the attack, Commander Salemme said.

Cruz was stopped and arrested as she stepped in to a grey Chevy van parked outside the apartment block. Inside were the ID and baseball bat, the weapon allegedly used to smash the skulls of the two friends. An image was shown in court.

Later that same day, April 26, detectives, led by Commander Salemme himself, went to Viramontes' address, arrested him and took him in for questioning. Clothes were taken away for examination.

Marcy Cruz is a co-defendant who has pleaded guilty to two charges of attempted murder and agreed to a 22-year prison sentence.

It is alleged she drove the van on the night of the attack and is likely to testify against Viramontes on Monday.

Key witness

Under cross-examination, Commander Salemme was questioned why he, with 230 detectives under his command, personally led the investigation, including knocking on doors.

He agreed it was a "high-profile" case with lots of press attention but said he often goes out on the ground with his detectives.

He also said 20 detectives worked round the clock in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

Mr Viramontes, 34, is charged with two counts of attempted murder and 23 other charges, from misuse of a credit card to aggravated battery.

To try and tie Mr Viramontes to the scene of the crime, prosecutors are using credit card information, cell phone records, CCTV and, to a lesser degree, DNA evidence.

But the key witness will be Cruz, who will testify she drove the van on the night of the attacks and that Mr Viramontes was in the passenger seat.

The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.

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