Crime and Courts

Woman pleads guilty in deadly NYC sidewalk shove of Broadway voice coach

Lauren Pazienza will be sentenced to eight years in state prison, followed by five years of post-release supervision, NBC New York has learned — after a jarring narrative of what she allegedly did in the aftermath of the attack emerged last year

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The Long Island woman accused of killing an 87-year-old voice coach when she callously shoved her to the ground in an alleged unprovoked attack on a Manhattan street pleaded guilty and will be sentenced to nearly a decade in prison, NBC New York has learned.

Lauren Pazienza entered her guilty plea Wednesday morning to first-degree manslaughter in the March 10, 2022, death of Barbara Gustern, who was just steps away from her Chelsea home on the night of the attack. Gustern suffered traumatic brain damage when she fell to the ground and hit her head on the sidewalk, and died five days later.

As part of the plea deal reached with the Manhattan district attorney's office, Pazienza will be sentenced to eight years in state prison, followed by five years of post-release supervision, NBC New York has learned. The 27-year-old also surrendered her ability to appeal.

When the judge asked if she committed the crime, Pazienza said “yes” through tears. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 29.

"Lauren Pazienza aggressively shoved Barbara Gustern to the ground and walked away as the beloved New Yorker lay there bleeding. Today’s plea holds Pazienza accountable for her deadly actions,” said District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “We continue to mourn the loss of Barbara Gustern, a talented musical theater performer and vocal coach who touched so many in New York City and beyond."

The Manhattan district attorney previously called it a senseless and unprovoked attack, and that she went to great lengths to avoid law enforcement.

Barbara Gustern was celebrated and remembered at a church across from her Manhattan home Saturday. NBC New York's Jessica Cunnington reports.

Prosecutors alleged Pazienza behaved guiltily in the aftermath of the sidewalk attack near West 28th Street and Eighth Avenue, deleting her entire online presence including her wedding website, despite being slated to get married in June, and fleeing to her parents' home in Port Jefferson, on Long Island.

She also allegedly stopped using her cellphone, which prosecutors say she stashed at an aunt's house so as to avoid being found by police. The judge considered those elements when he denied her bail request in May 2022.

Pazienza's attorneys said their client had a "temper-tantrum" the night of the deadly shove, but was not any sort of threat. They added that she had been receiving psychiatric help and counseling since the incident.

An anonymous tip on March 19 identifying Pazienza as the suspect in the attack led the NYPD to her parents' door two days later. Her father answered, telling police his daughter wasn't home and that they were not allowed in, according to prosecutors.

Her surrender was arranged soon after. And a jarring narrative began to emerge.

Prosecutors allege Pazienza crossed the street and cursed at Gustern before violently shoving her to the ground. The elderly woman was left bleeding profusely before a witness helped her into the lobby of her building where she recalled what happened, telling police the push was "as hard as she had ever been hit in her life."

She was dead within the week after being taken off life support.

Her attacker appeared to briskly walk off after the incident. Surveillance video from an avenue away minutes after the attack showed a woman matching Pazienza's description walking in the same direction a witness told police the attacker went.

Security video showed Pazienza in and around the area for almost a half-hour after the attack, according to prosecutors. About seven minutes after the shove, she was seen in a physical altercation with a man believed to be her fiancé, prosecutors said.

They also allege Pazienza was later seen watching the ambulance as it arrived at the scene to take Gustern to the hospital.

Additional surveillance footage tracked Pazienza to Penn Station, where police were able to get a clearer image of her, prosecutors said. She and her fiancé were later seen at the transit hub, where both swiped his MetroCard. Detectives were able to track the pair back to their home in Astoria, where video showed Pazienza and her fiancé enter their building about 90 minutes after the attack, prosecutors said.

She was wearing the same clothes as the woman who was seen crossing Ninth Avenue immediately following the attack, they added.

Paziena surrendered to authorities on March 22, with lawyer Arthur Aidala at her side. At the time, Aidala blasted the charges as overblown and said there was no evidence his client watched the victim lying on the street, insisting the video could show anyone watching. He also implied that the evidence was unclear, saying the push could have been accidental.

Pazienza is said to be a former event planner. A former employer, French high-end furniture and home accessory designer and retailer Roche Bobois, said the woman resigned from her role in December.

According to The New York Times, Gustern was an acclaimed singing coach who once helped train rock singer Debbie Harry and the cast of the 2019 Broadway revival of the musical "Oklahoma!"

A neighbor said that Gustern used to perform on Broadway herself, along with her late husband.

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