In April 2010, Natasha McShane, a UCD graduate on an education exchange program at the University of Illinois, and her friend Stacy Jurich were walking home from an evening out when Heriberto Viramontes attacked them with a baseball bat.
McShane suffered serious brain injuries, can no longer speak or walk, and is now confined to a wheelchair. Viramontes was convicted of attempted murder and was sentenced to 90 years in prison.
In an interview with ABC News, Jurich revealed that she will marry her long-term partner in Ireland this fall and has chosen McShane to be her maid of honor.
“I chose Ireland because Natasha is there,” said Jurich.
“The fact that she can stand up means the world to me, the fact that she can stand up next to me on my wedding day… I can’t put into words.
“I love her so much.”
Jurich said the attack is something she is “trying to put in her past.”
“The attack is really been something I’ve tried to put in my past, we’ve gone through the trial, the sentencing and wanting to have a fresh life, a new life, but at the same time it’s always lingering there,” she said.
“It is something I hold near and dear in my heart, I know that sounds weird, but it’s just because it’s the fact that it’s changed my life forever, it’s changed my family’s lives forever and the McShanes' lives forever.
“Just speaking to the McShanes and seeing the progress we’ve made and seeing where we were in that ICU unit then versus where we are today is something to be proud of.”
Jurich said she suffered severe brain injuries in the attack which resulted in her losing the use of the left side of her body. She had been in remission for rheumatoid arthritis, but after the attack her condition returned and she had to undergo chemotherapy as well as other treatments.
“It was a daily struggle. Simple things like using my left hand to brush my teeth or put on makeup or even just keep left eye open to do things were difficult – I’m making progress though,” said Jurich, who now works as a client services associate for a major financial firm.
Her friendship with McShane is something “nobody could understand” she said.
“Natasha is making so much progress, the strides she’s been making are remarkable … where she was one year ago compared to yesterday. I feel we’ve all been blessed because she is a fighter.”
Jurich says she still carries guilt with her.
“It’s something I still carry with me today, I wish I could have fought harder, done more, the guilt of the state she ended up in and the guilt of me having lesser injuries is very hard to deal with.
“There was the fear constantly of before the final sentencing, the fear of what was going to happen, the feeling like if I don’t do the right things or fight hard enough here might not be justice for her.”
She said she was motivated to speak on the stand against her attacker for Natasha as well as for herself and for other voiceless victims.
“It was also for other people that have gone through horrible instances like this and they mightn’t be able to speak for themselves or maybe they’re too afraid.
“Unfortunately, there are horrible people in the world – but this is one more off the streets, away from another woman to attack. Being an advocate for these rights was very important for me.”
The two survivors were given an award for courage by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office last week.