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THESE are the thugs accused of battering and robbing an Irish girl and her pal with a baseball bat - trying to use their stolen cards in a petrol station.

Heriberto Viramontes and his girlfriend Marcy Cruz were captured on CCTV less than 20 minutes after the vicious attack in a leafy suburb of Chicago early on Friday morning, while the girls made their way home after a night out.

Natasha McShane, 23, from Siverbridge, Co Armagh, is still critically ill while her American pal Stacy Starl Jurich was released from hospital yesterday.

A court was told yesterday that Viramontes, 30, hit the girls on the head with a wooden baseball bat, leaving them bleeding and unconscious. He fled in a van with Cruz, offering her the pick of the victims' belongings.

Minutes later, he and Cruz, 25, were caught on cameras using the victims' credit cards at a petrol station.

Viramontes allegedly tried to buy cigarettes with a card but couldn't because he and Cruz didn't have the pin number.

He also tried to pay for other motorists' petrol with the card, then get the motorists to give him cash, Assistant State's Attorney Erin Antonietti said.

Police recovered the bat from the van, which belonged to Cruz, who led investigators to Viramontes.

Chicago police Supt Jody Weis, when asked whether the charges would be upgraded from aggravated battery to attempted murder, said: "We want to charge them with everything we can."

Judge Adam Bourgeois refused to allow Heriberto Viramontes to be freed on bail, saying he posed too big a danger in light of the attack. He was ordered to be segregated from other prisoners.

The judge added: "I don't think there's any condition or set of conditions that I can impose that can protect the community from this individual."

Stacy revealed yesterday that she and Natasha had became great friends since they met in January - and this summer was to be the best of their young lives.

Stacy said: "We had dinner. We were celebrating, Natasha got a wonderful internship to extend her stay here, and I had just achieved some accomplishments myself at my company. "It was just a wonderful night. She's my little dance partner.

"We were laughing and dancing. No matter how the night ended, we had a wonderful celebration. We were just having fun. Natasha and I are free spirits and that's why I think we just bonded so well. Whether there is music on or not or there is a dance floor or not, we just need each other and we can have our own little dance party."

The attack has left Natasha, 23, in a drug-induced coma and 24-year-old Stacy struggling with seizures and short-term memory loss.

According to authorities, both women suffered fractured skulls and brain swelling. Stacy said she now wants justice - and their old lives back. She added: "We just would like to make sure that the individuals that did this terrible, terrible thing are sentenced and are put behind bars and do not have the opportunity to hurt another person and another family, another neighbourhood for that matter."

Stacy said it was her "mission" to see that she and Natasha recover from their injuries. But she acknowledged that it will be a challenge to go forward without fear.

She added: "I've woken up here and I have not yet had the chance to walk through that revolving door and approach the public, and I'm fearful of it.

"It's going to be a process that we'll approach day by day but that's what family and friends are for."

Natasha has been in Chicago since January while attending graduate classes at the University of Illinois. Her mother, father and sister flew to the US to be at her bedside.

Stacy added: "They're having a really hard time right now. I think the focus of their lives is just being at her bedside, making sure she hears all of our voices and knowing that we're here.

She's going to open her eyes some day and that's what's most important to them - that they're the first people that she sees."

Police said Heriberto Viramontes asked his girlfriend Marcy Cruz to drive him to the suburb of Bucktown to rob "easy targets".

Prosecutors claim that Viramontes clubbed both girls with a bat while Cruz waited in a vehicle.

Stacy said that right after the attack she tried to flag a cab for help but it drove by without stopping. A second cabbie stopped and contacted police. Despite her injuries, Stacy was able to provide information to police. Stacy said she still has problems getting in and out of bed and walking. But after learning of the charges on Tuesday, she removed her drip and went to Natasha's bed to share the news with her, even though she remained unconscious.

She added: "I care for Natasha deeply and the idea that I was going to be possibly transferred to a different hospital, I had to just be with her and hold her hand and be at her bedside and to let her know that I was there for her.

"I was determined whether someone gave me permission or not."

Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center has set up a fund for the women.


FRIENDS nNatasha McShane, left, and Stacy Jurich who were attacked in Chicago last Friday DRIVER JMarcy Cruz caught on camera after incident in a petrol station ATTACKER JHeriberto Viramontes is seen here allegedly trying to use one of the girls' bank cards PRIME SUSPECTS The alleged attackers on camera EVIDENCE 3This CCTV still was released by Chicago police yesterday CAUGHT 3 The footage allegedly shows the two suspects trying to use the stolen cards
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 30, 2010
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