Community rallies behind Natasha McShane

By Ray O'Hanlon

The Irish American community was rallying behind Chicago assault victim Nataha McShane this week as the Armagh-student remained in a coma in hospital.

Two people, a man and woman, have been arrested and charged in connection with the vicious baseball bat attack that resulted in Natasha, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, and a friend, nearly losing their lives.

Natasha, who is 22, has been opening and closing her eyes in the past couple of days but, according to reports, is not apparently seeing anything, or looking at anything.

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Meanwhile, there have been events organized in Chicago to help Natasha's family, members of which have flown in from Ireland to be at her bedside.

And in Yonkers, there will be a fundraiser this Saturday, May 8 at The Heritage on McLean Avenue. The event is bring organized by the Aisling Center.

Natasha's recovery will take a long time with substantial rehabilitation needed. Whether she will be able to ever walk or speak again was still open to question at press time.

The two charged with assaulting McShane and her friend, Stacy Jurich, who has recovered consciousness, are being held in the Cook County Jail.

A Cook County judge denied bail to Heriberto Viramontes, saying he posed too big a danger. Viramontes's girlfriend, Marcy Cruz, was also being held.

"I don't think there's any condition or set of conditions that I can impose that can protect the community from this individual," Judge Adam Bourgeois said in denying bail during a hearing.

Both accused were apprehended by police after investigators traced the use of cell phones and credit cards stolen from the two woman during the attack which took place in the early hours in the city's Bucktown neighborhood.

Viramontes allegedly hit both women in the head with a wooden baseball bat, not an aluminum one as earlier reported. The blows caused skull fractures to both victims who were left bleeding and unconscious.

Natasha, who is from Silverbridge, County Armagh, had a part-time job in a local bar, Butch McGuire's. Staff and patrons have been raising funds since the attack the help defray the costs of family members who have arrived in the city.

Students at the University of Illinois, where Natasha McShane is on an exchange program, have also rallied to the family's aid.

Since the attack, Stacy Jurich, who is 23, has been expressing both concern for her friend and demanding justice. Natasha, meanwhile, has been moved from Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where she was first admitted, to North Western Medical Hospital where, as it happens, there are a number of Irish medical personnel on staff.

Natasha, who is the eldest of five children, has been living in Chicago since January. She had been out celebrating the news that she had secured an internship, one that would extend her stay in Chicago, when the attack occurred under an overpass near railroad tracks.

The Yonkers fundraiser, meanwhile, begins at 10 p.m. and the Aisling Center said it was hoping for a big turnout.