Lawyers in baseball bat attack say victim erred on attacker's race

Attorneys for the man accused of brutally beating and robbing two young women in Bucktown attempted Wednesday to convince jurors their client was misidentified as the attacker, calling five police officers who testified about their initial roles in the 2010 investigation.

Heriberto Viramontes, 34, is Hispanic, and his attorneys have built their defense on the fact that one of the victims, Stacy Jurich, initially told police her attacker was or could have been African-American.

The defense finished putting on its case Wednesday after prosecutors concluded their evidence earlier in the day. Viramontes chose not to testify. The Cook County jury is expected to begin deliberations Thursday after closing arguments.

Jurich, now 25, and her friend Natasha McShane, an exchange student from Northern Ireland, were attacked at night by a baseball bat-wielding mugger who took their purses. McShane no longer can speak and is unable to walk unassisted, while Jurich recovered but still suffers severe headaches and reduced vision.

Jurich was able to give Officer Elise Middleton a description of the attacker before lapsing into unconsciousness after saying she felt lightheaded and needed to sit down, testified Middleton, who was called by the defense.

"I asked her if the offender could've been black and she said, 'Yes,'" Middleton said.

Under cross-examination by a prosecutor, Middleton said that Jurich told her the man's complexion was "medium brown" and that he was wearing a "light-colored, possibly tan, hoodie."

Detective Robert Carrillo testified that Jurich told him later at the hospital that she believed a black male had attacked her because his skin was dark in contrast to the silver bat he was holding. He said during cross-examination that Jurich also told him the attacker may have been Hispanic.

Jurich never saw her attacker's face but noticed his hands, according to trial testimony. The bat that authorities believe was used in the attack was wooden, with a handle wrapped in silver duct tape.

Another police officer testified that she stopped two African-American males who appeared to have blood on their shirts about two blocks from the crime scene about an hour after the attack. The officer testified that she let both men go after confirming their identities.

Another detective said he was assigned to find the men after Viramontes had been arrested but could not locate them.

sschmadeke@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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