Man charged in McShane attack supports arsonist sister

A MAN charged with the attempted murder of a young Irish student has written a “character letter” in support of his sister facing 50 years in prison for a near fatal arson attack that left two young girls disfigured for life.

Heriberto Viramontes is being held in prison on charges connected to an attack that left 23-year-old UCD masters student Natasha McShane in a coma and fighting for her life.

But his incarceration did not stop him writing a letter to a federal court praising his half sister Margarita Gonzalez, who has pleaded guilty to setting fire to a Chicago apartment where the two children and their mother were sleeping.

Viramontes’ support, however, could backfire on the arsonist as prosecutors raised in court her “questionable supporters” writing character letters as they argued for the maximum 50-year prison term.

Gonzalez did not plead guilty to the arson offence until June, many weeks after the April 23 baseball attack on Natasha and her American friend, Stacey Jurich.

McShane was beaten about the head with a baseball bat in a brutal and senseless assault as she and Stacey walked home from a night out in the upmarket Wicker Park district on the northside of the city.

The UCD and Queen’s graduate, an exchange student in Chicago, spent more than two months in hospital in the city before being flown home. She is continuing to recover at a Belfast hospital and at her home in Silverbridge, Armagh.

Viramontes, 31, and his co-defendant, mother-of- two Marcy Cruz, 25, were quickly arrested and charged in connection with the attack on the two women. They were later also charged with attempted murder.

His involvement in his sister’s case left prosecutors somewhat baffled, with questions being asked about what help he could offer.

Gonzalez, 26, and her boyfriend, Rafael Palanco, have pleaded guilty to setting fire to an apartment by pouring petrol under the door and setting it alight.

Inside were then three-year-old Alondra Reyes, her six-year-old sister, Ariel, and their mother.

All three were rescued but were badly burned and two years later can still not go into direct sunlight, while their faces, hands, arms and legs are still scarred and swollen. They wear masks and special clothes for 23 hours a day.

Both girls asked the judge to jail the pair “until they have no more birthdays”.

The attack was motivated by revenge as Gonzalez accused the girls’ mother of having an affair with her boyfriend and with another man she was interested in.


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