Lauren Pazienza is the event planner accused of shoving an 87-year-old woman who later died in what New York police say was a random attack on a New York City sidewalk.
According to ABC7, Pazienza, 26, of Port Jefferson, on Long Island turned herself in at the 10th Precinct on March 22, 2022. She was charged with manslaughter.
The victim, Barbara Maier Gustern, was a voice coach and performer who coached Blondie singer Debbie Harry and a Broadway cast of “Oklahoma,” according to The New York Daily News.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Accuse Pazienza of Shoving Gustern From Behind After Cursing at Her
Police say Pazienza pushed Gustern to the ground, according to ABC6. She suffered a head injury and died from it five days later. The attack occurred March 10, 2022, at 8:30 p.m., NBC New York reported.
The television station reported that police believe Pazienza “cursed” at Gustern, crossed the street to push her, and then walked away. Gustern’s head struck the pavement, the said. Gustern was conscious long enough to say that she was struck “as hard as she had ever been hit in her life,” NBC New York reported.
According to Daily Mail, the suspect called Gustern a “b****” during the attack.
According to NBC New York, Gustern was pushed “from behind without warning” in Chelsea “just steps from her home.”
Police released surveillance photos showing the suspect in a subway.
“This is a disgusting and disgraceful offense committed against a vulnerable, elderly woman doing nothing but walking down the streets of New York City,” NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said, according to New York Daily News.
On Facebook, Gustern described herself as a “voice teacher at Private Voice and Piano Teacher” who studied Psychology at Columbia and DePauw Universities. She went to Boonville High School in Indiana and lived in New York.
When Gustern died, a family member wrote on her Facebook page:
Today, at 11:15AM, we have lost one of the brightest little flames to ever grace this world. I ask that you all give me a little time and space, but I want to make time for anyone and everyone who wants to know more about her final moments.
Bobbob, I love you, you are and always will be my heart. I love you all so much, I could not have made it through these past 5 days without all of your support.
On March 9, 2022, in one of her final Facebook posts, Gustern wrote:
I may be a day late and a dollar short, but I would like to add my two cents to the posts for International Women’s Day. Growing up, it was a Man’s world. There was not a lot of opposition to that from women I knew, even women I admired. But in high school civics class I openly rebelled against this. I had been dubbed Bobby Jo and never Barbara.My father called me Junior. My mother tried her best to keep my cork screw curls in place and my rebellious nature controlled. I preferred jodpurs and riding boots although I didn’t ride. I was expected to be a girlie girl while at the same time fulfilling the role of the boy my dad wanted.My mother and both my grandmother’s were women to be reckoned with. My paternal grandmother who died in 1955 had a college education. My maternal counterpart barely finished one year of grade school. As different as they were, they had one thing in common – strength. And I inherited this and and tried to pass it on to my daughter. I would not listen to anyone saying women had their place, should let the husband lead, mind the kids and stay in the kitchen.Women have as much potential for achievement as men. Are we the same animal? NO. Biologically we have differences, but we are all people, not a hierarchy. Woman are capable of being world leaders – as capable as men. Women are working as steel workers, cow hands, physicists, playwrights, diplomats, presidents of countries. It is time to actively teach the next generation this parity. It is past time to bury the myth of male superiority.
2. Pazienza Is Accused of Deleting Her Social Media & ‘Trying to Evade Capture for Weeks,’ Even Quitting Her Job & Deleting Her Wedding Website
According to Erica Byfield, an NBC New York reporter, police say Pazienza “cursed at and then shoved a 87yo woman to the ground. Barbara Gustern later died. Detectives say she tried to evade capture for weeks: quit her job, stashed her cell phone, deleted her social media & hid out at her parents house on LI.”
Daily Mail reported that prosecutors accuse Pazienza of deleting a website for her upcoming wedding and quitting her job at a Chelsea store. A now-deleted website for Pazienza’s upcoming wedding on the website showed that she and her fiance were planning to get married in June.
NBC New York reported that prosecutors say Pazienza was seen “in a physical altercation with a man believed to be her fiancé,” about seven minutes after the Gustern attack. She “was later seen watching the ambulance as it arrived at the scene of the attack,” the television station reported.
A neighbor told The New York Post that Pazienza had called the police on neighbors. “There was always an issue with her and someone in the building,” the neighbor continued. “It’s like always something with that lady. I feel for her fiancé because he’s a nice guy and he didn’t sign up for this.”
A former classmate accused Pazienza of being a school bully to Fox News.
3. Pazienza Has Held a Variety of Marketing & Communications Jobs
A cache of a now-deleted LinkedIn page for Pazienza, says she has worked in a variety of marketing and communications jobs, including a luxury goods and jewelry company, where she was marketing and events coordinator, and a wine and spirits company, where she worked as a marketing associate.
She was also a planning and marketing intern for Nickelodeon Consumer Product for Viacom, and a host and waitress for various restaurant groups.
In 2014, she worked as a counselor at Stony Brook School Summer Camp, and she was an assistant and intern for Spring Fashion Week for Shades of Grey. She worked as a volunteer for a foundation that runs a park and preserve.
She has a bachelor degree in direct and interactive marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating in 2017, according to the page.
4. Pazienza’s Parents Were in Court & Run a Successful Cesspool Company
According to Daily Mail, Pazienza’s parents, Daniel and Caroline, “appeared somber leaving court and did not answer questions from reporters.”
Daily Mail reported that police received a tip that Pazienza was “hiding out” at her parents’ home, but her father “claimed that she was not at home and did not consent to a search of the property.”
The New York Post reported that the parents run a “successful business in Holtsville that has previously been ranked as the No. 1 cesspool company in Suffolk County for service and price.” Pazienza grew up on Long Island, the site reported.
5. Pazienza’s Lawyer Says There Is No Proof She Pushed the Victim
According to Daily Mail, Pazienza’s lawyer has rejected the claims.
“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,” said lawyer Arthur Aidala, described by Daily Mail as “a high-powered defense attorney who has previously represented Rudolph Giuliani, Harvey Weinstein, and Roger Ailes.”
The New York Post reported that Aidala said in court that “pushing someone who’s on the sidewalk” isn’t the same as “pushing someone in front of a cliff” or “pushing someone in front of a moving train” and he claimed the defendant was overcharged.
Daily Mail reported that Pazienza is engaged to a Microsoft customer support specialist.