March 24, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
An Astoria woman who went on the run after allegedly shoving an 87-year-old woman to her death earlier this month has turned herself in.
Lauren Pazienza, 26, who lives at the Shore Towers apartment complex near Astoria Park, was arrested Tuesday after giving herself up to police for the violent push in Manhattan that caused the death of Barbara Maier Gustern, a well-respected vocal coach.
Pazienza had fled to her parent’s home in Long Island shortly after allegedly shoving Gustern, who fell to the ground and hit her head. She died in hospital from her injuries five days later.
The Astoria woman was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court Tuesday charged with manslaughter and two counts of assault. She was then sent to Rikers Island after a judge set her bail at $500,000 cash or a $1 million bond, according to reports and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Her attorney said the bond is expected to be posted within the next 24 hours, according to a Fox News report.
According to the criminal complaint, Pazienza, who lived with her fiancé in a one-bedroom apartment at 25-40 Shore Blvd., allegedly crossed West 28th Street in Chelsea at around 8:30 p.m. and called Gustern a “bitch” — before pushing her to the pavement for no apparent reason. The incident took place between 8th Avenue and 9th Avenue.
Pazienza, prosecutors say, stayed in the area for more than 20 minutes after the alleged attack. During this time, she was seen having a “physical altercation” with her fiancé and then stood watching on the next block as an ambulance rushed to the aid of Gustern.
Her attorney said there is no evidence his client watched the victim lying on the street, NBC New York reported.
Security footage then shows the couple entering Penn Station and returning to Astoria, according to the complaint.
Assistant District Attorney Justin McNabney said in court Tuesday that Pazienza then tried to evade authorities by not using her cell phone before stashing it at her aunt’s residence. She also took down all of her social media accounts, he said.
On Monday, detectives showed up at the family home in Port Jefferson, but her father claimed she wasn’t there, prosecutors allege. Her attorney then contacted the police and Pazienza turned herself in on Tuesday.
Pazienza’s attorney said after her arrest that the charges were overblown, and his team would investigate what happened, according to NBC New York.
Her attorney also implied that the evidence against his client was unclear, saying the push could have been accidental, the publication reported
“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,” he said.
Gustern lived close to where she was pushed and had just left her home minutes earlier, according to the New York Times.
She was well known in Manhattan’s avant-garde scene for being an acclaimed singing coach.
The octogenarian once helped train rock singer Debbie Harry and the cast of the 2019 Broadway musical “Oklahoma!” the publication reported.