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26-year-old woman charged with manslaughter in fatal shoving of 87-year-old Broadway vocal coach

By Kiely Westhoff and Laura Studley, CNN

A 26-year-old woman was charged Tuesday with one count of first-degree manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault in connection with the death of an 87-year-old woman who was fatally shoved in New York City earlier this month, according to a criminal complaint.

The charges stem from the death of Barbara Maier Gustern, a Broadway vocal coach, who police said was pushed from behind by a woman on the night of March 10 as she stood outside her apartment in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Lauren Pazienza, the accused woman, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon. Judge Michael Gaffey set Pazienza’s cash bail at $500,000. She did not enter a plea, according to Naomi Puzzello and Caitlyn Fowles, spokespeople for the Manhattan DA’s Office.

CNN has reached out to Pazienza’s attorney, Arthur Aidala, for comment.

Prosecutors said Pazienza crossed the street in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea, allegedly called Gustern a derogatory name and pushed her “as hard as [Gustern] had ever been hit in her life.” There was “no apparent reason” for the alleged attack, the criminal complaint said.

An eyewitness to the assault took Gustern into the lobby of her apartment building, according to Associate District Attorney Justin McNabney. Emergency Medical Services transported her to the hospital where she later died on March 15 after being removed from life support, McNabney said.

The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner concluded the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, according to the criminal complaint.

“We have lost one of the brightest little flames to ever grace this world,” Gustern’s grandson, AJ Gustern, wrote in a Facebook post last week. “Bobbob, I love you, you are and always will be my heart.”

After the attack, surveillance footage appeared to show Pazienza allegedly staying in the area for at least 20 minutes, McNabney said. Video appears to show her allegedly witnessing the ambulance arriving at Gustern’s apartment about 13 minutes after the attack, he said.

Prosecutors accuse Pazienza of attempting to evade apprehension for the attack. In order to avoid arrest, Pazienza allegedly deleted her social media and her wedding website, though she had set a wedding date for June, according to McNabney.

She also allegedly left New York City, went to her parents’ house on Long Island, and stopped using her cell phone, instead keeping it at her aunt’s house to avoid discovery, McNabney said.

An anonymous tip revealed that Pazienza was on Long Island with her parents, but when police arrived at their house, Pazienza’s father said she was not home, McNabney said.

Pazienza’s attorney later called the police and arranged for Pazienza to turn herself in on Tuesday, after evading arrest for nearly two weeks, McNabney said.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Liam Reilly, Eric Levenson and Laura Ly contributed to this report.

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