I-Team: Bucktown beatings, behind the story

A prosecuting attorney reveals the backstory in the case of a baseball bat attack on an Irish exchange student and her friend as they walked through Bucktown.
Monday, June 16, 2014
In an I-Team exclusive, a prosecuting attorney reveals the backstory in the case of a baseball bat attack on an Irish exchange student and her friend as they walked through Bucktown.

Their attacker was sentenced to 90 years in prison in May.

The I-Team rarely gets access to the actual prosecutors who do the heavy lifting in Cook County Criminal Court. There was no heavier prosecution than the baseball bat attack on Irish exchange student Natasha McShane.

At the heart of the case is career prosecutor Margaret Ogarek, who says she was driven to find justice for a senseless crime.

"I was so affected by the case, so angered by the violence of the case that I went down to the supervisor's office and asked for the case to be specially assigned," Ogarek said.

April 23, 2010: McShane of Northern Ireland and her friend Stacy Jurich were walking home from a celebration in Bucktown when they were jumped and savaged with a baseball bat in the hands of gangbanger Heriberto Viramontes.

"He crashed that bat down on Stacy and she fought back," said Ogarek. "She did fight back and his response to her was so hateful and violent, not only in his words. He called her a stupid 'B' in the course of it and ripped the articles right out of her hand, but he hit her again in an effort to silence her permanently just like he had done moments earlier to Natasha."

For Ogarek and her prosecutor partner John Maher, this case wouldn't be what a CSI-savvy jury expects. McShane survived, but with serious brain trauma. She cannot speak, walk or testify.

"People expect to hear from the victim or an eyewitness who will say, 'Yes, that was the person that did this.' We didn't have that in this case," Ogarek said. "That was a hurdle we had to overcome. They certainly were going to hear from Stacy, but based on the manner she was attacked, she could not provide the identity of the offender, so we had to find it through other means, and thankfully the rest of the evidence in the case and other witnesses in the case made identifications for us."

"He is the personification of evil," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Alvarez's trial team won the conviction last October, and a month ago Viramontes was sentenced to 90 years in prison.

Ogarek remains in touch with McShane's family and with Stacy Jurich.

"At this point, I don't think anybody is ready to say goodbye," Ogarek said. "I know that at the point of trial (Jurich) was very clearly of the mindset that she accepted the fact that she was not going to be able to obtain the peripheral vision or have terrible headaches because of this. And at some point, I hope she overcomes the night terrors that she has because she will still wake up screaming because of what happened so many years ago. I think that will go away with time, but I don't think that all the physical ailments will."

I-Team's Chuck Goudie: "Do you ever wake up in a cold sweat?"

"I wake up on occasion, yes, because there is a heavy responsibility to make sure that the case is tried correctly, to make sure that at some point justice is achieved for the victims," Ogarek replied.

Ogarek has prosecuted Cook County cases for 15 years, including the Maine West hazing trial, a videotaped sex assault of a 16-year-old Naperville girl and the UIC student who was beaten to death with a bike lock.

Coming from a family of law enforcement officers, Ogarek says her career choice came easy.

"Does it change my overall view of the city? No. I love this city," she said. "I grew up here. It is still as beautiful as it ever was despite this tragic event. This was a terrible thing and the man and woman responsible were held responsible."

While preparing for this latest case, Ogarek was promoted to deputy supervisor in the county's task force on Internet crimes against children.


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