Lauren Pazienza Charged In Death Of Vocal Coach Barbara Gustern After Unprovoked Attack
The 26-year-old woman who likely shoved vocal coach Barbara Maier Gustern, who later died from her injuries, was identified and turned herself into police on Tuesday. For shoving the 87-year-old woman and leaving her bleeding on the sidewalk, Lauren Pazienza has been charged with manslaughter.
A witness identified by police just as a cyclist said he saw a woman crossing the street to end up behind Gustern in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. He said that she swore at Gustern and shoved her to the pavement. The cyclist called helped the bleeding Gustern to her feet. She described her attacker before being transported to Bellevue Hospital, where she died days later.
Following the incident, Prosecutors argue that Pazienza attempted to cover her tracks from law enforcement. She allegedly removed her social media accounts and a wedding registry from the internet, and even went to stay at her parent’s house in Long Island while leaving her cellphone with a different relative.
Police tracked her down because her face was captured on surveillance video, which they released publicly. The video showed Pazienza apparently remaining on the scene for about 20 minutes. In part of the video, she was seen having a physical altercation with a man believed to be her fiancé. They later depart the scene via Penn Station after Gustern is taken away by an ambulance.
“She was in pain. She’s accused of a very horrible act,” Pazienza’s lawyer Arthur Aidala said to reporters after her arraignment hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court. “She’s a very moral, right, just person. She was treated by the D.A.’s office in a very inconsistent manner. She has no criminal record.”
Pazienza’s bail was set at $500,000 or a $1 million bond. Her family reportedly plans to pay bail. Aidala told CBS2, “I anticipate her pleading not guilty,” in response to her manslaughter charge.
Gustern was a widely-loved vocal coach who recently worked on the 2019 Broadway revival of Oklahoma! She was known to be extremely supportive of her friends and students and was waiting for a cab to attend a student’s performance at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater when she was attacked.
Gustern’s grandson, A.J. called his grandmother “a little neutron star, right, a ball of energy, building community everywhere she went.” In regards to her attacker, he said, “If she did do this, then I would like answers. But I’m still praying for you, and the karmic weight you’ve taken on is enormous.”
Pazienza is due in court next week, and if convicted of manslaughter she could face prison time of up to 25 years.