CHICAGO (AP) — Opening statements began Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of violently beating and robbing two young women with a baseball bat under a Chicago viaduct in April 2010.
Heriberto Viramontes, 37, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery and armed robbery for beating Stacy Jurich and Natasha McShane, both students at the University of Illinois at Chicago. McShane — who was so severely injured she still cannot talk or walk — was an exchange student from Northern Ireland.
"He came up from behind and smashed that bat into Stacy Jurich's skull," Assistant State's Attorney Margaret Ogarek said in court.
Both women, who were walking home from an evening of dancing, were beaten unconscious and left on a city street. Jurich needed 15 staples in her head. Authorities said Viramontes stole the women's purses after beating them. Both Jurich and McShane's mother are scheduled to testify.
Viramontes' public defender, David Dunn, said his client is a victim of mistaken identity.
"To this day Miss Jurich has not seen any lineup and been able to say 'Yes or no. That's the person who was under the viaduct,'" Dunn said. He also said there is no DNA evidence linking Viramontes to the crimes.
But prosecutors said Viramontes' fingerprints are on McShane's belongings and they have video of him using Jurich's credit card later that evening at a gas station.
Prosecutors plan to call Viramontes' former girlfriend, Marcy Cruz, to testify. Cruz pleaded guilty this summer to two attempted murder charges and was sentenced to 11 years for each count.
Another of Viramontes' attorneys, Assistant Public Defender Chandra Smith, said would call a witness who says he saw a different man with a baseball bat in the area shortly before the attack.