By Steve Schmadeke
9:30 PM CDT, October 21, 2013
A key prosecution witness testified Monday that she smoked marijuana in her minivan and listened to a song on the radio while her companion, Heriberto Viramontes, allegedly beat and robbed two women under a Bucktown viaduct a short distance away.
The testimony by Marcy Cruz, a former stripper and mother of two young children who cut a deal with prosecutors but did not witness the 2010 robbery, is the centerpiece of the state's case against Viramontes, 34.
Neither Natasha McShane, an exchange student from Northern Ireland severely injured in the beating, nor her friend, Stacy Jurich, saw the mugger's face. No blood was found in Cruz's van and none of the victims' DNA was found on a wooden baseball bat authorities believe was used in the attack.
The defense targeted Cruz's credibility. Cruz admitted on cross-examination that she gave authorities three different accounts of what happened that night.
Cruz testified she knew Viramontes through her boyfriend and that she met him on April 23, 2010, at a private nightclub called Illusions, had sex in Cruz's minivan and then drove north on Milwaukee Avenue with Viramontes at the wheel.
"He told me, look at all these white ho's (and) that he wanted to rob one of them," Cruz said.
Viramontes parked her gray minivan near an alley not far from the 1800 block of North Damen Avenue, told her he didn't want her involved in what he was about to do, grabbed her boyfriend's bat and walked off, she told jurors.
Jurich has previously testified that she and McShane were struck from behind as they walked north on Damen about 3 a.m. after a night of celebrating McShane's landing an internship and Jurich's closing a deal at work.
Cruz said Viramontes returned to her van about three minutes later with two purses and told Cruz to drive away, she said.
"He stated that the girls were really pretty and that he did some bogus (stuff)," Cruz testified.
A few blocks away, Cruz pulled over. Viramontes grabbed credit cards from the purses and told Cruz to take what she wanted, Cruz said. She pocketed a bottle of Dior perfume and makeup.
Viramontes then drove to a gas station at Western Avenue and Augusta Boulevard and used one of the credit cards to pump gas for people in exchange for money. He also told Cruz to take one of the cards and try to make a purchase from the station clerk, she testified.
Video surveillance footage captured the two at the station at 3:48 a.m.
The two left the gas station — where prosecutors say Viramontes discarded Jurich's purse — and Viramontes picked up his pregnant girlfriend before driving to an apartment building on the West Side.
While waiting in the van, Cruz said she told Viramontes' girlfriend that "he robbed some girls."
Under questioning by Viramontes' attorney, Chandra Smith, Cruz said she lied to authorities at first — telling police she'd bought the two purses from a man named Jamaica for $80 — because Viramontes had told her to do so.
"You told that lie to keep yourself out of trouble, right?" Smith asked at one point.
"Yes," Cruz answered.
Smith also questioned Cruz about other details that had changed — including her statement that she never saw Viramontes carry a baseball bat and that he was wearing a red shirt, not a gray hoodie, at the time of the attack.
Prosecutors on Monday also called Jaclyn Garfinkle, a former Illinois State Police forensic expert, who testified that Viramontes could not be excluded as the source of DNA found by the bat's handle. But Garfinkle also testified that 1 in 18 Hispanics could not be excluded and that the DNA recovered was a mix from three people.
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