Lauren Pazienza, a 26-year-old woman from Port Jefferson, has been charged with manslaughter and second-degree assault in relation to the death of 87-year-old Broadway vocal coach Barbara Gustern.
Pazienza was arraigned at the Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday, March 22. She faces 25 years in prison for allegedly shoving Gustern on a sidewalk and causing her death earlier this month.
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office reported that the defendant had been set on a bond of either $500,000 cash or $1 million surety. However, the office has reportedly requested authorities to hold Pazienza without bail on Rikers Island while she awaits her trial.
Prosecutors alleged that detectives from the New York Police Department visited a Long Island home belonging to Pazienza’s parents on Monday. However, her father did not allow officers to search the property and said his daughter was not present at the house at the time.
Lauren Pazienza turned herself to police on Tuesday before getting arraigned in court for her alleged offense. Her parents, Daniel and Caroline, also appeared in court during the hearing.
Everything to know about Lauren Pazienza
Lauren Pazienza was born to Daniel and Caroline Pazienza. She hails from Port Jefferson, Long Island.
Pazienza is currently based in New York and previously lived in Setauket, Brookhaven. Her father operates a cesspool company based in Long Island.
According to Conan Daily, Pazienza graduated from Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, Brookhaven, in 2013. She then received a bachelor’s degree in direct and interactive marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
The 26-year-old lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Shore Towers, a doorman building in Astoria, Queens, New York, with her fiance Naveen M. Pereira. Documents suggest that the apartment was sold in 2019 for $540,000, and Pereira and his relatives are listed as owners.
Pazienza worked as a communications and events coordinator for the furniture brand Roche Bobois during the pandemic. However, she left her job in December 2021. Meanwhile, her fiance worked as a Microsoft customer support specialist.
As per her now-deleted LinkedIn page, Pazienza previously worked as a marketing and events coordinator at a luxury goods and jewelry company. She also served as a marketing associate in a wine and spirits company.
Pazienza also served as a counselor at Stony Brook School Summer Camp. Additionally, she was an assistant and intern for Spring Fashion Week for Shades of Grey in 2014. She even volunteered for a foundation that runs parks and preserves.
Pazienza was also a planning and marketing intern for Nickelodeon Consumer Products for Viacom. It is not known why she quit her last job in December 2021.
What did Lauren Pazienza do?
On March 10, Broadway vocal coach Barbara Maier Gustern was pushed from behind into a sidewalk while approaching a cab outside her Chelsea apartment. A cyclist helped her before she was rushed to the hospital covered in blood.
The 87-year-old reportedly hit her head on the cemented sidewalk and slipped into a coma due to head trauma. She passed away at New York’s Bellevue Hospital nearly five days after the attack.
Before losing consciousness, Gustern revealed that an unknown woman crossed the street, called her a “b***h,” and shoved her as hard as she had “ever been hit in her life.”
According to assistant district attorney Justin McNabney, Lauren Pazienza was identified as a suspect during an intense review of the surveillance footage by the NYPD.
The attack took place on the corner of West 28th Street and Eighth Avenue, where Pazienza was seen wandering 20 minutes after the assault.
According to The Daily Mail, prosecutors alleged that Pazienza remained in the area after the assault and was seen arguing with her fiance on a nearby sidewalk. She reportedly returned to the scene and watched an ambulance arriving in Gustern’s aid.
Nearly half an hour after the attack, the couple was seen entering Penn Station to access a MetroCard belonging to Pereira. This prompted officials to track the pair from the station to the Times Square subway and finally to their Astoria apartment.
Footage from the apartment building showed Pazienza entering her home around 9.50 pm wearing the same clothes as the attacker. Shortly after, she quit her latest job at a Chelsea store, deleted all her social media accounts, and took down her June wedding advertisement from a website.
Prosecutors alleged that Pazienza fled to her parents’ home a day after Gustern’s death and destroyed her phone at her aunt’s home to escape from the police. A clear photo of the suspect was released by the NYPD on Friday.
Lauren Pazienza's attorney Arthur Aidala told the Daily Mail that there is “no proof” his client was involved in the attack:
“What they have is a photo of someone who looks like my client getting on the subway. This attack did not happen on the subway.”
Following the arraignment, the lawyer also said that manslaughter was “unwarranted” even if Pazienza pushed Gustern onto the sidewalk. He further mentioned that the defendant would likely plead not guilty in court.
Aidala added that his client is a “moral person” who has been sent to the “Twilight Zone” since the arrest.
Lauren Pazienza’s next court hearing is scheduled for Friday, March 25.