Northern Ireland

Viramontes admitted in phone conversation beating Natasha McShane

Natasha McShane
Image caption Natasha McShane was left brain damaged after the attack

A court in Chicago has heard taped recordings of the man accused of attempting to murder a County Armagh woman and her friend in Chicago.

Heriberto Viramontes is accused of the attempted murder of Ms McShane and Stacy Jurich in the US city in 2010.

The recordings detail five conversations Mr Viramontes allegedly had with a number of people while in custody in Cook County Jail.

He can be heard admitting being involved in beating both women.

The audio excerpts played in court detail Mr Viramontes, complaining about the possibility of being charged with attempted murder, and he could be heard saying: "At the same time they cannot charge me with attempted murder. My intentions was not to kill nobody, not to try and kill nobody. My intention was to get money, to get high."

The comment was made in the second of the five conversations. In it, Viramontes talked about the possibility of Natasha McShane dying. In it he says he would be in serious trouble if she died but added: "Armed robbery? Ok, fine."

In the final conversation played in court, after the male caller complains that Mr Viramontes was being turned into a "monster", the defendant said: "I don't know what I did, I was high. I did some stupid stuff. I probably hit her once, took her stuff, that's it."

Telephone calls made by prisoners in Cook County Jail are all taped. The five calls were made by Mr Viramontes in the months after he was arrested in connection with the attack on Natasha McShane and Stacy Jurich.

The calls are limited to 15 minutes and during each the caller is reminded up to four times that they are being monitored and recorded.

Earlier the court was told that a fingerprint found on a bag that contained Ms McShane's passport could be matched to Mr Viramontes.

The fingerprint was found on a plastic bag that contained Natasha's passport. It was dumped in a rubbish bin and the print was matched to a fingerprint taken from Heriberto Viramontes.

The Cook County Criminal court heard testimony from a fingerprint expert attached to the Illinois State Police crime lab.

Image caption Heriberto Viramontes is accused of the attempted murder of Natasha McShane.

Michael Cox said a print found on the plastic bag was compared to one from Mr Viramontes. He concluded they match.

The court previously heard that the bag was found in a bin outside a petrol station.

Co-defendant, and prosecution witness, Marcy Cruz testified that she saw Mr Viramontes "throw some stuff into a garbage can" at the station, where the pair were also caught on camera.

A defence lawyer closely questioned Cox, who admitted part of his analysis was subjective and that the features on fingers, ridges, endings and others, are not unique, each are found on almost everyone.

The print from the bag was also distorted, said Cox under cross-examination.

Telephone conversations

Prosecutors also told the court they had recorded hours of telephone conversations between Mr Viramontes and his former girlfriend.

Prosecutors told the court they had taped hours of telephone conversations that Mr Viramontes had with Kira Lungren while he was in custody.

Excerpts of those and others have not yet been aired in court.

Giving evidence on Tuesday, Ms Lundgren told jurors that she saw him and his co-defendant, Marcy Cruz, late on the night of the attack.

Ms Lundgren said they picked her up in Cruz's van and when they stopped at a petrol station she saw the defendant talk to another customer.

She said he appeared to have a credit card in his hand, that he seemed "agitated", and was moving his hands "emphatically" as he spoke.

The following day Kira Lundgren said she saw Mr Viramontes and Marcy Cruz looking at a newspaper but that they would not let her see what they were reading.

Image caption Kira Lundgren gave evidence against Heriberto Viramontes.

On Tuesday Mr Viramontes' girlfriend told jurors she saw "high-end" cosmetics on Marcy Cruz's kitchen table.

Kira Lundgren is testifying against her boyfriend in return for a shorter prison sentence, after she was caught smuggling marijuana into the jail where he was being held.

Ms McShane, from Silverbridge in County Armagh, who is now 27, is unable to speak and struggles to walk or do simple tasks as a result of the injuries she sustained in the beating.

She had been attending the University of Illinois at the time of the assault.

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

The trial continues.

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