Natasha McShane: Three years of fighting for justice
Exactly three years ago today Natasha McShane’s life took a sudden, horrific, twist in a direction nobody could have envisaged.
Silverbridge woman Natasha was the victim of an unprovoked attack across the Atlantic Ocean in America in an incident that has turned Natasha’s, and her family’s, world upside down.
Natasha is now wheelchair bound, unable to walk or talk or enjoy life like a normal 26 year old lady should be.
Even harder to comprehend is why this is now Natasha’s life. Natasha was in the wrong place at the wrong time. An innocent victim out enjoying a few sociable drinks with her friend.
On 23rd April 2010 Natasha, then 23, was brutally attacked in Chicago and beaten close to death. At approximately 3.30am on the night in question, Natasha and her friend Stacy Jurich were walking through the Bucktown area of Chicago.
They had just left a local pub and were celebrating Natasha’s internship, which would allow her to extend her stay in Chicago.
Both girls were walking through 1800 block of North Damen Avenue and chatting when they were approached from behind and beaten with a baseball bat by vicious mugger Heriberto Viramontes (33), a gang member.
Viramontes then made off in a getaway car driven by his friend Marcy Cruz (27) but both were arrested soon after.
Lying on the street bloodied and beaten, Natasha’s friend Jurich somehow managed to muster up the strength to pick herself off the ground and hail down a passing taxi in a desperate plea for help.
The quick-thinking of Jurich meant that it wasn’t long until the emergency services arrived on the scene and treated both girls. Natasha was hospitalised for several months and initially the doctors said they were happy with her recovery.
These early positives resulted in Natasha leaving Chicago by air ambulance in July 2010 after she had begun to eat, walk and say a few words.
After arriving back in her own country, Natasha had surgery in Belfast to replace a section of her skull, which resulted in a turn for the worst. A serious infection developed and this was followed by seizures and a build-up of fluids on her brain.
Since then, the positives gradually waned and early indications of a road to recovery look even more unlikely than ever. Natasha regressed quickly and soon walking and speaking was no longer possible.
A trial date for the two accused was finally set yesterday for 9th September 2013 where they will face 25 felony counts each including attempted murder.
Natasha’s father Liam McShane spoke to an American newspaper this week and admits to being frustrated that after three years, Natasha and her family seem no closer to getting justice.
“If the trial was over you could say so, and try and move on,” Liam insisted. “As it goes on, I thought there’s no point in me getting frustrated. The years slip by. We say a prayer for her all the time. That’s all that’s left, isn’t it?”
Natasha’s grandmother Bernadette McShane also expressed her frustration with the wrangling between various attorneys over the admissibility of DNA evidence.
“It’s very, very disheartening to see the way she’s been left after three years. What is more disheartening is the way the legal system is dragging its heels in bringing this case to closure.”
In the last 12 months there has been little in terms of progress or a possible recovery for Natasha.
Liam explained, “I’d love to tell you she was doing a lot more things. Just hopefully, there’s no more setbacks.”
A trial might get justice for the family but it will be little comfort to Natasha as her grandmother explained. “It’s her who has been left with a life sentence. She was a great girl, very friendly, awful nice to people.
“She was my eldest grandchild, and she worked so hard to do so well at school. It’s just a shame that everything has been cut so short.”
Any little signs of progress are positive for the family. Within the last three months, Liam said Natasha has started to whisper the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’. They don’t always fit the context but the words nevertheless, “give you a wee bit of hope,” her father said.
In the past six months, Liam says he has noticed Natasha becoming more aware of her surroundings. “These last six months, you can see her taking things in. But it is hard to know how much she understands.”
A typical week in the McShane household now consists of home health aides appearing at the house four times a day to help Natasha get dressed and go to the toilet. Her parents also take her to physical therapy twice a week.
Liam explained, “Even if we’re going to do a bit of shopping, we take her in the wheelchair and wheel her around. We try to have it normal. The physical therapist will tell us, ‘Treat her as a 26-year-old; don’t treat her like a baby.'”
Just last week when the family was in the kitchen making dinner, Liam turned around and noticed Natasha was crying.
“It’s only the very odd occasion that you see the tears. When I see that, I just go over and say, ‘You’re OK. You’re OK.’ I’ll say, ‘You will get better.’ I’ll constantly tell her that she will get better.”
Hope gets the McShane family through each day. Hope that one day Natasha will recover fully from her horrendous injuries and ordeal.
Hope that she might one day be able to live a life similar to everybody else her age. Hope that small things that are taken for granted, like walking and talking, might one day be something Natasha can do without the aid of family, flashcards or wheelchairs.
Because, Liam insists, without hope, “you wouldn’t get through it”.
“We’re not giving up. I just want to focus on Natasha, to be here for her. Hopefully, some day, with the help of God, she’ll get better,” her father added.
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