The woman accused of fatally shoving a beloved Broadway vocal coach in Manhattan has been indicted for the March incident.
The Manhattan District Attorney's office announced on Tuesday that Lauren Pazienza, 26, has been indicted on charges of manslaughter in the first degree and assault in the second degree in conjunction with the death of Barbara Maier Gustern.
“This was a senseless and unprovoked attack,” said District Attorney Alvin Bragg in a statement. “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."
The incident happened just before 8:30 p.m. on March 10th. Gustern was walking near West 28th Street between 8th and 9th avenues, near her apartment in Chelsea, when Pazienza allegedly crossed the street, shouted obscenities at her, and then intentionally shoved her to the ground.
Gustern hit her head on the pavement, causing a massive hemorrhage to the left side of her brain.
According to the NY Times, Gustern was initially awake after the attack. She told a friend at the scene, “I’ve never been hit so hard in my life." She was taken to a nearby hospital where she became unconscious. She died on March 15th, five days after the attack.
Pazienza stayed in the area, the Manhattan DA's office says, where the attack occurred for about 20 minutes, and video footage showed her having a physical altercation with her fiancé and watching the ambulance arrive at the scene.
She and her fiancé then took the subway back to their apartment in Astoria, Queens. The DA's office alleges that Pazienza "subsequently admitted to her fiancé later that evening that she pushed Ms. Gustern. Pazienza deleted her social media accounts and took down her wedding website." The couple had been set to get married in June.
Pazienza eventually went to Long Island to stay with family. She was arrested on March 22nd, almost two weeks after the attack.
“Nobody doubts that this is a tragedy,” Pazienza’s attorney Arthur Aidala told reporters outside the courthouse in March. “The whole family is traumatized, but everyone is very supportive of her. They know who Lauren is. They know who she’s not. They know that she’s a very, very good person at heart and they’re all here to support her the best that they can.”
In court on Tuesday, Pazienza pleaded not guilty to the charges through her lawyers. The judge ordered that Pazienza, who was previously out on $500,000 bail, should be held in jail pending her trial.
Gustern, who grew up in Indiana and came to NYC with Broadway aspirations, was a successful singing coach who worked with the likes of performance artist Diamanda Galás, Blondie's Debbie Harry, and the cast of Daniel Fish’s 2019 Broadway revival of Oklahoma!
Her friends and former students praised her ineffable and creative spirit to the NY Times, recalling her "as the grandmother who wore dominatrix gear to perform as a go-go dancer at a playwright’s birthday party; who left her friends in the dust as she ran to catch a subway; who danced on top of a table at the cabaret theater Joe’s Pub."
Earlier in the day on March 10th, the day she was attacked, she wrote on Facebook, "I feel full of creativity, joy at working on a beautiful show with people I adore and totally respect. I feel like a singer again for the first time in forever. What happened? I haven't a clue. But whatever it is I am more than grateful. I am extatic [sic]."