A Long Island event planner will be sentenced to eight years in prison for shoving 87-year-old Broadway singing coach Barbara Maier Gustern to her death in Manhattan last year.
Lauren Pazienza, originally from Port Jefferson, pleaded guilty Wednesday to manslaughter in a plea deal that requires her to spend eight years behind bars — significantly less time than the 25 years she faced if she was found guilty at trial. Her attorney had said she was drunk and high when she fatally pushed Gustern on a Chelsea sidewalk on March 10, 2022.
In the attack, Gustern hit her head and was critically injured after Pazienza shoved her to the ground on West 23rd Street. She died five days later from her injuries, authorities said.
Video surveillance footage captured the incident and was used by authorities to identify Pazienza. The attack was described by authorities as a random act involving two strangers.
Prosecutors said that in the days following the fatal shoving, Pazienza deleted her social media accounts, as well as a website for her upcoming wedding, and stopped using her cell phone in an effort to avoid being arrested.
Investigators tracked her down at her parents’ home in Port Jefferson. She eventually turned herself in after her attorney reached out to authorities, and she was arraigned 12 days after the shoving attack.
Prior to encountering Pazienza, Gustern had left her apartment to catch a student’s performance in a show. She was known in the theater world for decades, working with Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry and other 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.
Pazienza, who has been held at Rikers Island for over a year, is scheduled to again appear in court Sept. 29 to be formally sentenced.
With Associated Press reports
Top photo: Lauren Pazienza appears in court with lawyer Arthur Aidala, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in New York. Panzienza, 28, who fatally shoved 87-year-old Broadway singing coach Barbara Gustern in Manhattan last year, pleaded guilty Wednesday to manslaughter in a plea deal requiring she serve eight years behind bars. (Curtis Means/Pool Photo via AP)