They both had so much to celebrate. So Stacy Jurich and her close friend, Natasha McShane, an exchange student from Northern Ireland , spent the night dancing — McShane in her favorite boots — before starting the half-mile walk back to Jurich's Bucktown home.
The friends never made it because a baseball bat-wielding mugger attacked them, leaving McShane bleeding on the sidewalk under a Bucktown viaduct.
Speaking publicly about the 2010 attack for the first time, Jurich, now 27, frequently broke into tears on the witness stand as testimony began Wednesday at the trial of Heriberto Viramontes on charges of attempted murder and armed robbery.
She wept as she viewed photos of the crime scene — at one point recognizing the red jacket she used to try to stanch the flow of blood from McShane's head — and as she recounted trying to find out what had happened to McShane while they both recovered in the hospital.
"I managed to pull out my IVs and crawled down the hall until I found her room," Jurich said. "And that's when I saw what happened to her."
McShane's mother, Sheila, also testified that her vibrant and gifted daughter was left so severely injured that she can no longer talk and struggles with simple tasks like drinking from a cup. She sometimes mistakenly referred to her daughter in the past tense.
Both McShane's mother and Jurich identified the items later recovered from McShane's bag: classwork, makeup and a notebook she was writing in that her godmother gave her as a gift for her journey to Chicago.
It was about 3 a.m. April 23, 2010, when the two friends left The Tavern, a popular bar, and began walking along Damen Avenue to Jurich's duplex in the 2000 block of West Churchill Street.
McShane, who had been in Chicago just three months studying urban development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, had won an internship that allowed her to extend her stay, and Jurich had just closed a "significant deal" for the financial services company she worked for.
They were halfway through a lit viaduct in the 1800 block of North Damen Avenue when Jurich was hit from behind without warning.
"I heard my head being hit and felt excruciating pain and sort of lost my equilibrium and just had this taste in my mouth almost like a battery or metallic flavor," Jurich testified.
Even though the blow cracked open the back of her skull, Jurich didn't fall. She stumbled, then turned and saw McShane being struck in the head with a bat.
"She went down immediately," Jurich testified as some of McShane's family members cried. "She just lifelessly fell into the sidewalk."
Jurich was hit again in the neck and struggled with the attacker, who called her a "stupid bitch" as he tried to pull the purse off her left arm. After he ran off with their purses, Jurich turned again to her friend.
"The blood started coming out of her head," she testified. "I took off my jacket and tried to support her head as well as I could. Then I got up and ran for help."
In the years since the attack, Jurich, now living with her fiance in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, has been able to return to work but suffers head and neck pain and testified she is too frightened to drive after losing her peripheral vision as a result of the beating.
Sheila McShane, who revealed she is estranged from husband Liam, said the couple flew from County Armagh, Northern Ireland, the day after the attack to be with their daughter, the oldest of their five children. Her daughter, who had been "very outgoing, full of life, full of energy," was unconscious, surrounded by medical equipment.
On her return to Ireland, her daughter's condition only worsened. She got an infection and a year later suffered a seizure that left her in a wheelchair. She now can use a walker, but only with assistance, and communicates mostly by pointing.
"We don't have conversations," her mother said. "She doesn't speak."
Jurors were shown three short videos of Natasha McShane. In a clip from 2010, she was unable to put her toes atop a cone after a therapist demonstrated how. In a more recent clip taken by her mother at home, she struggled to drink from a cup, using her other hand and lowering her head to drink.
In her opening statement in a packed courtroom, Assistant State's Attorney Margaret Ogarek said that two different sides of Chicago — the "beacon" of "shimmering lights" that attracts young minds and the dark "underbelly" that preys on the unsuspecting — met under that Bucktown viaduct the night of the attack.
"They were completely unaware of what the defendant was about to do to them," she said.
Ogarek said evidence tying Viramontes to the attack includes his fingerprints on McShane's bag, which was later recovered from a gas station.
Viramontes' lawyer, Assistant Public Defender David Dunne, told jurors the brutal attack was a tragedy but that his client had nothing to do with it. Jurich had first described her attacker as a black man, Dunne noted. Viramontes is Hispanic.
"This is an absolute tragedy," Dunne said in his opening statement. "What happened to Ms. McShane and Ms. Jurich should never happen anywhere, much less our own city."
"The right conclusion is not to convict an innocent man."
Dunne said the state's case relied on "weak circumstantial evidence" and the unreliable word of co-defendant Marcy Cruz, a stripper who drove the getaway van that night and has already pleaded guilty in return for a 22-year prison sentence.
"She will say anything as long as it serves her interests," Dunne said.
Cruz could testify as early as Thursday.Copyright © 2015, CT Now