Suspect in 87-year-old grandmother's NYC shove death held without bail

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Woman accused of pushing elderly woman to her death held without bail
Derick Waller reports on the judge's decision.

CHELSEA, Manhattan (WABC) -- The woman who allegedly shoved an 87-year-old grandmother and vocal coach who later died from her injuries in a random unprovoked attack in New York City was ordered held without bail Tuesday.

The New York Supreme Court judge cited a recent bail reform change allowing judges to consider the seriousness of harm caused in ordering 26-year-old Lauren Pazienza jailed pending trial in the death of Barbara Gustern.

Pazienza, 26, of Port Jefferson, turned herself in at the 10th Precinct in March and was charged with manslaughter and assault. She was initially released on bail.

Gustern, an active performer and voice coach, was wrapping up rehearsal on March 10 in Chelsea when the woman approached from behind and pushed her to the ground.

Gustern suffered a severe head injury and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. She died five days later.

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Family and friends gathered to say goodbye to the 87-year-old Broadway voice coach who was shoved to her death.

"This was a senseless and unprovoked attack," District Attorney Alvin Bragg said. "Barbara Gustern was a beloved vocal coach who lived a vibrant and active life at the age of 87, and her loss was felt deeply by many throughout the city. After allegedly walking away from Ms. Gustern as she laid on the ground bleeding, Lauren Pazienza went to great lengths to avoid accountability for her actions."

Prosecutors said Pazienza admitted to the shove, telling detectives she had several glasses of wine and then got in a fight with her fiancé before storming across Ninth Avenue, shouting a profanity at Gustern, and shoving the 90-pund woman so hard that she fell and struck her head on the sidewalk.

Authorities said that Pazienza stayed in the area for approximately 20 minutes, where video footage shows her having a physical altercation with her fiancé and watching the ambulance arrive at the scene.

They then entered Penn Station and took the subway back to their apartment, where she deleted her social media accounts and her wedding website. Later, she reportedly fled to her parents' home on Long Island.

The motive, if there is one, is still unclear.

Morgan Jenness, one of Gustern's students, was in the courtroom for the judge's ruling.

"She ran across the street to push an elderly woman for no reason, because she was having a temper tantrum, and pushed her so hard that she hit her head and bled out and died," Jenness said. "And I'm sorry for her. I'm sorry for her parents. But what she did needs to have consequences."

Pazienza's family lives in Port Jefferson, but she also maintains an address in Astoria, Queens. She worked most recently for a high-end French furniture designer.

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The dog was eventually reunited with their owner thanks for a Facebook post.

Barbara Gustern had been known in the theater world for decades.

She 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."

Her late husband, Joe Gustern, was also a singer, with credits including "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)


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