Woman Pleads Guilty to Killing Singing Coach in 'Senseless' Attack

Under plea deal, Lauren Pazienza will be sentenced to 8 years for NYC attack
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2022 12:31 AM CDT
Updated Aug 23, 2023 6:57 PM CDT
Prosecutors: Here's What Led Up to Woman's Fatal Shove of Broadway Coach
Lauren Pazienza appears in court with lawyer Arthur Aidala Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in New York.   (Curtis Means/Pool Photo via AP)
UPDATE Aug 23, 2023 6:57 PM CDT

The woman who killed an 87-year-old Broadway singing coach in an unprovoked attack last year had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and will be sentenced to eight years in prison—a fraction of the 25 years Lauren Pazienza could have received if the case had gone to trial, the AP reports. In what police and prosecutors in New York City described as a "senseless attack," the 28-year-old shoved Barbara Gustern to the ground from behind on March 10 last year, leaving the beloved vocal coach bleeding on the sidewalk just steps from her home, reports NBC New York. Gustern suffered brain damage and died five days later. Pazienza, who has been held at Rikers Island without bail since May last year, will be formally sentenced next month. Under the plea deal, she's not allowed to appeal.

May 11, 2022 12:31 AM CDT

Prosecutors on Tuesday described the hours leading up to the fatal shoving of beloved Broadway vocal coach Barbara Gustern in March, as alleged attacker Lauren Pazienza pleaded not guilty to all the charges against her in the bizarre assault. According to prosecutors, Pazienza and her fiance, Naveen Pereira, were celebrating in advance of their upcoming wedding and Pazienza had had several glasses of wine on the night of March 10, the New York Times reports. The night soon devolved after Pazienza had what prosecutors referred to as a "temper tantrum," NBC New York reports. She allegedly bought food at a food cart and took it into Manhattan's Chelsea Park, then got angry when a Parks Department worker told her the park was closing soon and she'd have to leave.

Pazienza allegedly cursed at the employee, "threw her food on to her fiance" for reasons unknown, "and stormed out of the park," one of the prosecutors said. A block away, prosecutors say the 5'7" Pazienza saw the 4'11" Gustern and ran across the street to call her a "bitch" and push her. Gustern hit her head on either the cement ground or a metal fence, and was bleeding profusely when an ambulance came to take her to the hospital. She was unconscious by the time she got there, and died five days later. Pazienza stayed in the area until the ambulance arrived, having called Pereira to come meet her there; she fought with him and told him he'd ruined her night, prosecutors say.

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Later, in bed, she admitted to him she'd pushed someone, they say, and when Pereira asked her why, she allegedly said Gustern "might have said something to her" but she wasn't certain. When the attack made headlines, prosecutors say, Pazienza went into hiding but eventually turned herself in. The 26-year-old is charged with manslaughter and assault and faces up to 25 years behind bars; her defense team calls the manslaughter charge a "stretch." "Whether it was a push, whether it was a shove, whether it was a kick or whether someone tripped—the evidence is not very solid on that at all," one attorney says. Her lawyers also say Pazienza is "receiving counseling and addressing various issues," but the judge still ordered her held without bail. (Read more New York stories.)

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