A 26-year-old woman charged in the death of an 87-year-old Broadway singing coach hurled an epithet at her before shoving her to the ground and walking away while the older woman lay bleeding on the sidewalk, prosecutors said at an arraignment Tuesday (March 22).
Lauren Pazienza, of Port Jefferson, Long Island, turned herself in earlier Tuesday to face a manslaughter charge in the death of Barbara Maier Gustern, which police said was the result of “an unprovoked, senseless attack” between two strangers.
Gustern hit her head and was critically injured March 10 after she was shoved to the ground on West 23rd Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. She died March 15. Friends told The New York Times that Gustern had just left her apartment to catch a student’s performance after hosting a rehearsal for a cabaret show in her apartment.
At the arraignment, prosecutors said an eyewitness went to help Gustern, and that she was able to give police an account of what happened before losing consciousness. A message seeking comment was sent to Pazienza’s attorney. Her next court date is scheduled for March 25. Prosecutors said authorities used video surveillance to identity a suspect, and in the time since the attack, Pazienza tried to avoid being arrested. They said she deleted social media, as well as a web site for her upcoming wedding, and stopped using her cell phone.
Police received a tip that she was at her parents’ home on Long Island, prosecutors said, but were turned away when they went there on Monday. Her attorney reached out Tuesday to arrange for her to turn herself in, prosecutors said. Gustern had been known in the theater world for decades.
She worked with 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, who told the Times she was “one of the great humans that I’ve encountered.”
Her late husband, Joe Gustern, was also a singer, with credits including The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.