Woman Who Fatally Shoved Beloved NYC Vocal Coach Barbara Gustern Pleads Guilty To Manslaughter, Faces Eight Years In Prison

Lauren Pazienza, who deliberately and randomly shoved 87-year-old Broadway vocal coach Barbara Gustern to the ground on a Manhattan sidewalk in 2022 causing the elderly woman’s death, changed her plea from not guilty to guilty and will be sentenced to eight years in state prison.

The plea deal was announced today by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr.

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“Lauren Pazienza aggressively shoved Barbara Gustern to the ground and walked away as the beloved New Yorker lay there bleeding,” Bragg said in a statement. “Today’s plea holds Pazienza accountable for her deadly actions. 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.”

In addition to the eight years in prison, the 27-year-old Pazienza, a former events coordinator, received five years of post-release supervision for the shoving that occurred near Gustern’s apartment building in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood,. The guilty plea to one count of Manslaughter in the First Degree was entered in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. She will be officially sentenced on September 29.

The shoving occurred at approximately 8:30 p.m. on March 10, 2022, as Pazienza, who reportedly had been drinking wine and arguing with her fiancé, was walking from Chelsea Park when she crossed the street, shouted “Bitch” at Gustern and shoved her to the ground. The two women were not acquainted.

Gustern fell directly on her head, causing a massive hemorrhage to the left side of her brain. Pazienza then walked away, leaving Gustern on the ground bleeding from her head wound. Eyewitnesses called EMS and Gustern was rushed to the hospital, where she became unconscious. She died five days later after she was removed from life support.

Pazienza remained in the Chelsea vicinity for 20 minutes after the shoving, apparently watching as an ambulance arrived, then re-met up with her fiancé and took the subway back to her home in Queens. She hid out on Long Island with relatives before turning herself in two weeks later after security footage images of her were released by law enforcement officials.

Gustern’s senseless and shocking death outraged many in the New York theater and cabaret communities. An occasional performer herself, Gustern was better known as one of the city’s premiere voice teachers and coaches, whose clients had included the cast of Daniel Fish’s acclaimed 2019 Broadway revival of Oklahoma!, playwright and actor Taylor Mac, performer Justin Vivian Bond and Blondie’s Debbie Harry. On the night of the attack, she had just left her Chelsea apartment where she’d been rehearsing an upcoming cabaret show with collaborators Barbara Bleier, Paul Greenwood and actor-playwright Austin Pendleton. She was on her way downtown to the Public Theater’s Joe’s Pub venue to watch the performance of a student.

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