Crime and Courts

Woman who fatally shoved beloved NYC singing coach sentenced to more prison time than expected

Barbara Maier Gustern died five days after she was pushed to the ground in March 2022 in what police called “an unprovoked, senseless attack."

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What to Know

  • More time has been tacked onto an eight-year prison sentence for a New York woman who fatally shoved an 87-year-old Broadway singing coach
  • Lauren Pazienza pleaded guilty to pushing vocal teacher Barbara Maier Gustern to the ground in March 2022. Gustern died five days later
  • The judge says she was unconvinced that the 28-year-old woman took responsibility for her actions

A New York judge sentenced a woman who pleaded guilty to fatally shoving an 87-year-old Broadway singing coach onto a Manhattan sidewalk to six months more in prison than the eight years that had been previously reached in a plea deal.

During Friday's sentencing of Lauren Pazienza for manslaughter, Manhattan state Supreme Court Judge Felicia Mennin said she was unconvinced that the 28-year-old Long Island woman took responsibility for her actions on March 10, 2022, when she pushed the vocal teacher, Barbara Gustern, to the ground.

Gustern, whose students included “Blondie” singer Debbie Harry, lay bleeding on a sidewalk. She died five days later.

Pazienza pleaded guilty on Aug. 23. She could have been sentenced to 25 years had she been convicted during a trial.

Pazienza, a former event planner originally from Long Island, has been locked up at the city’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex since a judge revoked her bail in May 2022.

According to prosecutors, Pazienza attacked Gustern after storming out of a nearby park, where she and her fiancé had been eating meals from a food cart.

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

Gustern had just left her apartment to catch a student’s performance after hosting a rehearsal for a cabaret show, friends told The New York Times.

Gustern’s grandson, A.J. Gustern of Colorado, called Pazienza’s apology “contrived.”

“I curse you, Lauren Pazienza,” he said as he read from a statement in court, Newsday reported. “For the rest of your days, may you be miserable.”

Pazienza encountered Gustern on West 23rd Street and shoved her to the ground in what police called “an unprovoked, senseless attack."

Gustern worked with singers ranging from the cast members of the 2019 Broadway revival of the musical “Oklahoma!” to experimental theater artist and 2017 MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Taylor Mac, who told the New York Times she was “one of the great humans that I’ve encountered.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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