Woman Sentenced to 8½ Years in Prison for Shoving Elderly Victim to Death in Shocking NYC Case

Lauren Pazienza, the woman who pushed 87-year-old vocal coach Barbara Gustern to her death in a tragic incident last year, has been sentenced to 8½ years in state prison. The sentencing, which occurred on Friday, came after Pazienza pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree manslaughter in August, agreeing to an eight-year prison term, followed by five years of supervised release.

However, during the sentencing hearing, Pazienza’s account of the incident changed while she was being questioned by Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Justin McNabney. This prompted Justice Felicia Mennin to add an additional six months to her sentence, citing Pazienza’s “inability to take responsibility for her actions.”

Pazienza, an event planner, briefly spoke during the hearing. She first offered an apology before her lawyer, Arthur Aidala, encouraged her to express more remorse. “I never should have pushed anybody, and I’m so sorry,” Pazienza said. “I wish I could take it back, but God doesn’t turn back the clocks. I’m just so sorry.”

The tragic incident occurred last March when Pazienza and her fiancé were visiting Chelsea art galleries. After consuming several glasses of wine, they headed to Chelsea Park, where a confrontation with a park employee led to a heated exchange. Pazienza cursed, shouted, threw food at her fiancé, and eventually left the park.

As she walked along 28th Street, prosecutors say she encountered Barbara Gustern, an 87-year-old woman who was simply walking down the sidewalk. According to prosecutors, Pazienza verbally insulted Gustern and intentionally shoved her. However, during her recent testimony, Pazienza denied using derogatory language when questioned by McNabney.

The shove caused Gustern to fall, resulting in multiple injuries. She fell into a coma and tragically passed away five days later. After the incident, Pazienza left the scene while Gustern lay injured, bleeding on the sidewalk. She remained in the vicinity for about 20 minutes before taking the subway back to her apartment in Queens.

Upon returning home, she confessed to her fiancé about the shove, deleted her social media accounts, took down her wedding website, and eventually fled to Long Island to stay with her parents. It wasn’t until March 15, 2022, the day Gustern passed away, that Pazienza turned herself in to authorities.

NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig described the incident as “disgusting and disgraceful,” emphasizing that it was an offense committed against a vulnerable elderly woman who was simply walking in the streets of New York City.

Barbara Gustern was a respected member of New York’s artistic community. She had worked on notable Broadway productions, including the 2019 revival of “Oklahoma!” featuring Tony Award winner Ali Stroker and the 2008 musical “Passing Strange.” Her tragic death deeply impacted those who knew her, and her family described her as a bright presence in the world.

During Pazienza’s sentencing, AJ, Barbara Gustern’s grandson, addressed the convict directly, expressing his frustration at Pazienza’s apparent unwillingness to accept responsibility. “She just doesn’t seem like she is even maybe capable of accepting responsibility,” he said. “My baba felt safe in this city—even late at night—and you’ve ruined that.”

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