Singing Coach’s Alleged Killer Called Her a ‘B*tch’ Before Fatal Shove: Prosecutors
The Queens resident believed to have killed a beloved singing coach on the sidewalk earlier this month called the woman a “bitch” before fatally shoving her, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Lauren Pazienza then allegedly lingered in the neighborhood to watch as emergency services arrived to help Barbara Maier Gustern, 87. Gustern was transported to a hospital and died of severe head trauma five days later, according to the New York Police Department.
She did not regain consciousness.
Pazienza and Gustern are believed to have been strangers when they ran into each other in the Chelsea area on the night of March 10. Authorities said Pazienza was crossing West 28th Street and Eighth Avenue at a high speed when she met Gustern, whom she shoved “without provocation,” Assistant District Attorney Justin McNabney said.
Pazienza, 26, turned herself in at an NYPD precinct in Chelsea with her attorney Tuesday morning, according to the New York Post. She faces manslaughter and assault charges.
Her attorney, Arthur L. Aidala, slammed the charges as overkill. Pushing someone on the sidewalk, he argued to the judge, was not the same as “pushing someone in front of a cliff” or “pushing someone in front of a moving train.”
Aidala has represented Rudy Giuliani, Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, and Alan Dershowitz. A former Fox News legal analyst, Aidala currently hosts a radio show called The Arthur Aidala Power Hour. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
Gustern, known for coaching Blondie singer Debbie Harry and the cast of the Broadway musical Oklahoma!, died after hitting her head on the pavement. The blow left her “profusely bleeding from the head,” according to prosecutors.
The coach had been hustling to catch a cab downtown to watch one of her students perform at the Public Theater, friends told The New York Times. Several of them said they had been in Gustern’s apartment just prior to the attack, rehearsing for an upcoming cabaret show.
Those friends were able to go to the 87-year-old’s aid, as was a passing bicyclist who witnessed the altercation. “I’ve never been hit so hard in my life,” a bloodied Gustern said immediately afterwards, according to the Times.
Gustern remained conscious long enough to speak to the police. Her condition rapidly declined, however, and she was transported to a hospital and later Bellevue Medical Center.
NYPD’s Chief of Detectives James Essig called the attack “a disgusting and disgraceful offense committed against a vulnerable, elderly woman,” according to the New York Daily News.
The Post reported later on Tuesday that less than 10 minutes after the attack on Gustern, Pazienza had a “physical altercation” with a man believed to be her fiancé. After the fight, which was caught on surveillance footage, the pair boarded a train nearby to head uptown.
Prosecutors said Pazienza then made “every effort” to avoid being caught by authorities. The Fashion of Institute Technology graduate deleted much of her social media, including her LinkedIn page, which listed her as an events coordinator for Roche Bobois.
Roche Bobois, a homeware design and retail company, did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
Pazienza’s bail has been set at $500,000, which Aidala said she is expected to post. His client will undergo a judge-ordered mental-health examination in the near future, he explained to reporters.
Gustern’s funeral is scheduled for March 26. Her family has been hosting viewings of her apartment for close associates, according to Gustern’s Facebook page.
Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.
Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.