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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Mother Of Natasha McShane ‘So Sad’ To Hear Of Brutal Attack Of Polish Tourist, Says Recovery ‘Is Going To Take Time’

The mother of an Irish woman who was severely beaten in Chicago ten years ago offered some advice to the family of a Polish woman who is facing a long recovery.

An alley near the corner of Ogden and Grand avenues in West Town, where a Polish tourist was brutally attacked last year. Inset, Irish tourist Natasha McShane before she was attacked in Chicago 10 years ago.
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Editor’s note: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault and graphic violence. If you are a rape victim and need assistance, please call RAINN at 800-856-HOPE.

CHICAGO — As the Polish teenager who was brutally raped and beaten in West Town last summer rehabilitates in her native country and the alleged offender mulls accepting a plea deal, the mother of an Irish woman who was severely beaten in Chicago ten years ago offered some advice and good will to her and her family.

Both incidents shocked and outraged Chicago, and are forever linked together by their viciousness and the fact that the victims were women from foreign countries. And both cases are a reminder that long after the offenders are arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison, victims often have to deal with both physical and psychological effects of the crime for the rest of their lives.

Natasha McShane was a 23-year-old foreign exchange graduate student from Northern Ireland who was studying at UIC when she and her friend Stacy Jurich, 24, of Chicago, were robbed and beaten by a man with a baseball bat under a Damen Avenue viaduct in Bucktown in April 2010. Both women suffered life-altering injuries, with McShane still in need of constant care from her family.

Natasha’s mother, Sheila McShane, spoke to Block Club about her daughter and offered support for the most recent foreign victim of Chicago’s violence from her home in Silverbridge, County Armagh in Northern Ireland.

“I’m so sorry to hear about this young lady, it’s very sad and at such a young age. I just hope it’s not as severe as Natasha’s and she can have have some sort of normal life, but it’s going to take time for rehabilitation,” Sheila McShane said.

In her daughter’s case, Heriberto Viramontes was found guilty of attempted murder, armed robbery and multiple charges of aggravated battery and sentenced to 90 years in prison. His girlfriend, Marcy Cruz, who was waiting for him in a nearby getaway car, was sentenced to 22 years, receiving a lighter sentence for her cooperation testifying against Viramontes. 

McShane and Jurich were on their way home from a bar and were crossing under a viaduct in the 1800 block of North Damen Avenue about 3:30 a.m. on April 23, 2010, when Viramontes spotted them before he bashed their heads with a bat and snatched their purses.

Cruz, 28, waited in a van during the attack, according to authorities. In a statement to prosecutors, she said Viramontes talked earlier that night about committing a robbery. When she parked near Milwaukee Avenue, he jumped out of the van with a baseball bat and returned about five minutes later with two purses.

Both Jurich and McShane suffered brain injuries and struggle to this day. Jurich, who received the lesser of the injuries, still lives in Illinois and is married. She could not be reached for this story. For McShane, who suffered three blows to the the head from Viramontes’ bat, has come a long way considering she was close to death, but she was never the same as before the attack, her mom said.

The Polish woman in the August 2018 attack was visiting family in Chicago when she was raped and viciously beaten by Rufus Carson, prosecutors allege. After coming out of a coma with a traumatic brain injury, she spent months in a rehab facility where she relearned how to walk and talk. Her earliest attempts at speaking were screams of terror while lying in a fetal position, prosecutor Mikki Miller said in October.

The victim had been walking from the CTA Chicago Blue Line “L” station to the Starbucks at the corner of Ogden and Grand avenues in West Town.

Carson is expected to take a plea deal in exchange for a 30-year sentence at his next court appearance in January. If he declines the offer, he faces up to 150 years if convicted.

In a previous court appearance, prosecutor Miller told Cook County Judge Thaddeus Wilson video surveillance from the CTA and neighboring properties “clearly” shows Carson grabbing the victim, putting her into a “chokehold” and dragging her into an alley “clearly against her will.”

While the footage does not visually capture what happened next, the camera’s audio component recorded the attack, Miller said.

After the attack, Carson returned to the Blue Line, where additional CTA footage showed him taking off his shirt, sweating and appearing “out of breath,” Miller said.

Witnesses found the victim unconscious and near death about an hour and a half later.

For a brief few seconds, the victim regained consciousness and told an EMT, “I was raped,” before slipping back into unconsciousness.

She then spent several days in a coma at Northwestern Hospital, where she was treated for traumatic brain injuries, shattered facial bones and lesions.

After that, she spent several months in a rehabilitation facility, where she relearned how to walk and talk.

McShane’s mother said that the power of prayer is important and advised the Polish victim’s family to find a brain-injury support group.

“All I know is prayer has worked and does work. It depends how bad her brain injury is. It’s ten years now and [Natasha has] come on but she’s not what she was, she’s not the same girl. She is very much dependent on us as a family,” McShane said.

“Every brain injury is different and I would say that to the family.”

She also advised the Polish victim’s family to try to get as much help as possible.

“Take all the help and advice you can get. If you can keep up the therapies as in helping her walk and speech, that’s very important.”

As for Natasha, Sheila McShane said that her daughter, who took years to be able to walk again, has to live with her and her husband, is still on medication and is still “learning the basics.” She said Natasha struggles writing and talking to this day. 

“She has the mind of maybe a 12-year-old. Her right side was affected and that effects her comprehension and understanding. It’s been very difficult to get her back. She is talking. She still lives with me and has to be traveled with on the bus. She can’t be on her own and we always have someone who has to shadow her. If I put her on a bus we always have someone who is going to meet her at the end of it. She is aware of what happened and she’ll say she wants to get better, she wants to try but she can’t spell. She can write just her name and copy names. She gets very frustrated when she can’t express what she’s trying to say. She’ll come out with some mumble jumble words and she knows that she’s doing that and she can’t help that.”

McShane said before her daughter’s attack, Natasha was very easy going and quick to make friends, which makes the reality that for many with brain injury victims, friends often drift away all the more hard to deal with.

“They tend to lose their friends because they cannot communicate with their friends as much. Friends find it difficult, they don’t know what to say and you’re sort of left on your own. They disappear. Good friends will stay and come back but on a weekly, monthly basis, you don’t see them. Everyone is moving on, everyone is getting engaged, getting married, having their children and the person with the brain injury is left behind,” McShane said.

Now 33, Natasha is the the youngest of five, with two sisters and two brothers. Sheila McShane said her first daughter, Natasha’s sister, was married a few weeks ago and that Natasha had a hard time with it.

“That was an emotional day for Natasha. She was upset part of the day. She kept saying ‘I’m never going to get married, I’m never going to have a boyfriend’,” McShane said.

Despite the fact that Chicago was the place where her daughter was attacked and where their lives were forever changed, McShane said she harbors no ill will towards the city or its residents and said her daughter’s attack was random.

“It’s just the luck of the draw. You could be anywhere. It happens in every country. Chicago is no different than London, then Ireland. There’s people getting hurt all the time. It was just the wrong place at the wrong time,” McShane said, adding that the three times she was in Chicago were all related to Natasha’s attack. 

“I have to say, I’ve been to Chicago. It’s a lovely city. People were very good to us in Chicago. People reached out and to this day still send messages, which is lovely.”