Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

Lauren Pazienza, the 27-year-old Big Apple event planner and Long Island native accused of fatally shoving a beloved Broadway vocal coach on a New York City sidewalk last year, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, according to Manhattan prosecutors.

The 87-year-old victim, Barbara Gustern, cracked her head on the concrete from the fall on March 10, 2022. She spent five days in the hospital, then died from her injuries.

As part of a plea deal, Pazienza admitted to hurling profanities at Gustern and intentionally shoving her to the ground. Her motive remains unclear.

Prosecutors previously said the younger woman rushed Gustern on a Chelsea sidewalk, called her a “b—-,” and knocked her to the ground from behind.

“Lauren Pazienza aggressively shoved Barbara Gustern to the ground and walked away as the beloved New Yorker lay there bleeding,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. “Today’s plea holds Pazienza accountable for her deadly actions.”

Gustern suffered “a massive hemorrhage” on the left side of her brain as bystanders called 911.

Pazienza remained at the scene for about 20 minutes, watching first responders, then took a subway to Astoria, Queens, with her fiancé, Naveen Pereira. After hiding out for a few days, she deleted her social media accounts, took down her wedding website and fled to her family’s home in the affluent village of Belle Terre on Long Island, according to authorities.

She pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree manslaughter Wednesday, more than a year after her arrest.

As part of the plea deal, Pazienza is expected to receive a sentence of eight years in prison and five years of post-release supervision. Formal sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 29.

Her attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On the original charges, of first-degree manslaughter and multiple assault charges, Pazienza faced between five and 25 years behind bars.

Gustern was a vocal coach whose clients have included such celebrities as Blondie singer Debbie Harry, as well as Kimilee Bryant, a South Carolinian performer who referred to her former mentor as her “New York mom” and who said Gustern and her late husband had taken her in when she arrived in the Big Apple years ago for her first stint on Broadway in “The Phantom of the Opera.”

“We’d really become close, because they really adopted lots of sort of strays, as they would call us, for holidays because we couldn’t go home,” she said. “I couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving. We had a show.”

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born | buffygunner@illicitdeeds.com