Prosecutors: Before Fatal Shove, a 'Temper Tantrum'

Lauren Pazienza pleaded not guilty to all the charges against her
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2022 12:31 AM CDT
Prosecutors: Here's What Led Up to Woman's Fatal Shove of Broadway Coach
Lauren Pazienza, 26, of Port Jefferson, NY, who was arrested in the death of a 87-year-old Broadway singing coach, arrives at court, in New York, Tuesday, March 22, 2022.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

(Newser) – 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.

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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