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New York woman enraged over being kicked out of park before fatally shoving vocal coach, say prosecutors

Prosecutors revealed new details about the night Lauren Pazienza pushed Barbara Maier Gustern, 87.
Lauren Pazienza, who was arrested in the death of an 87-year-old Broadway singing coach, arrives at court in New York on March 22, 2022.
Lauren Pazienza, who was arrested in the death of a Broadway singing coach, arrives at court in New York on March 22.Richard Drew / AP file

The 26-year-old New York woman accused of fatally shoving an 87-year-old voice coach did so in an angry fit that began when she was kicked out of a closing park while she was eating dinner with her fiancé, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Lauren Pazienza spent the night of March 10 gallery-hopping with her fiancé in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood in celebration of 100 days until their wedding, her fiancé told authorities, according to a court document.

Pazienza had "several glasses of wine" during the evening before the pair stopped at a food cart for something to eat, according to the document filed by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

The pair went to Chelsea Park to eat their meal, but before they were done, an employee told them they would have to leave because the park was closing, the document said. Chelsea Park closes at 11 p.m.

"The defendant became angry, started shouting and cursing at the park employee, threw her food onto her fiancé, and stormed out of the park," according to prosecutors.

Pazienza's fiancé told police that he packed up and intended to head back to their Queens apartment because he didn't know where she had gone.

Meanwhile, Pazienza "stormed" down the street and spotted Barbara Maier Gustern, prosecutors said.

Gustern, "in what turned out to be her dying words" before she lost consciousness, told a friend that a woman with dark hair “ran across the straight,” directly toward her, called her a b---- and pushed her as hard she "had ever been hit in her life" toward a metal fence, prosecutors said.

Gustern, according to a witness, "fell in an arc, falling directly on her head," according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Pazienza "turned around and walked away, leaving Ms. Gustern prone on the sidewalk, bleeding from the head," prosecutors said.

Pazienza, prosecutors noted, is 175 pounds, while Gustern was less than 100 pounds.

A witness helped Gustern back to her apartment, but by the time she arrived at the hospital, her brain had swelled so badly that she was incoherent. She died five days later.

The medical examiner said the deadly wound was caused by “substantial force."

Pazienza called her fiancé after the assault, he told authorities. When they reconnected, she picked a physical fight with him, accusing him of ruining her night, prosecutors said. He insisted the two head home, but security video from the area showed that Pazienza stayed in the area long enough to watch the ambulance arrive for Gustern.

She later told her fiancé what she had done, he told authorities. When he asked her why she would do such a thing, she said the woman "might have said something” to her.

Pazienza was charged Tuesday in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said. She pleaded not guilty.

Pazienza's attorney Arthur Aidala, who has represented Harvey Weinstein and Rudy Giuliani, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Prosecutors, revealing additional details about the night of the attack and the days following, requested that Pazienza be held without bond.

Prison records show she is being held without bond at the Rose M. Singer Center at Rikers. She is next due in court July 26.

Prosecutors argued that Pazienza is a flight risk because she evaded police for more than a week, despite constant media coverage and pleas from Gustern's loved ones to turn herself in.

She deleted her wedding website and all of her social media accounts, almost erasing herself from the internet. After she learned of Gustern's death, she hid out at her parents' Long Island home, stashing her phone at her aunt's home so police wouldn't find it. She also later fled to her aunt's house as police began closing in. After they visited her parents' house on March 19, Pazienza turned herself in.

"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," Bragg said.

Pazienza originally posted $500,000 in bail. Prosecutors argued that she could do it again and flee.

Prosecutors say all evidence shows the shove was "intentional." They are seeking a sentence of 15 years in prison but say Pazienza could face up to 25 years on the manslaughter charge alone.

“This was a senseless and unprovoked attack,” 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."