Northern Ireland

Natasha McShane friend tells Chicago court of attack

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Media captionNatasha's mother and sister arrive at court to hear evidence against Heriberto Viramontes. Julie Kirby reports from Chicago.

The trial of a man accused of attacking County Armagh student Natasha McShane in Chicago has heard evidence about the assault from Ms McShane's friend.

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

Ms McShane has been left with extensive brain injuries and has struggled with her speech and mobility after being hit with a baseball bat.

Ms Jurich said she saw her friend being struck with the bat.

"She went down immediately, her face just fell into the sidewalk," Ms Jurich, who needed 15 staples in her head, testified.

"She was not moving on the ground. The blood started coming out of her head."

The friends were attacked under a viaduct as they walked home together after a night out in Chicago three and a half years ago.

Image caption Natasha McShane was left brain damaged and fighting for her life after the robbery

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

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

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

Her mother, Sheila McShane, told the court her 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.

'Violent rage'

During opening statements, a prosecutor said Mr Viramontes "unleashed his violent rage" on the women.

He said the accused's fingerprints were on Ms McShane's belongings, and said there was video of him using Ms Jurich's credit card later that evening at a petrol station.

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

Earlier, a lawyer for Mr Viramontes said his client was an innocent man, and that the evidence against him was circumstantial.

"To this day Miss Jurich has not seen any line-up and been able to say 'yes or no. That's the person who was under the viaduct,' " he said.

He also said there was no DNA evidence linking Mr Viramontes to the crimes.

The lawyer said the state's key witness, Marcy Cruz, who said she was with Mr Viramontes that night, was a person would "say anything to anyone at any time to serve her purpose".

Ms Cruz has pleaded guilty to attempted murder for her role in the attack.

The trial of Mr Viramontes is expected to last up to two weeks.

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