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Event Planner Accused Of Killing Elderly Broadway Vocal Coach Turns Down Plea Deal
Lauren Pazienza is accused of shoving elderly vocal coach Barbara Gustern to the ground, fatally injuring her, in a fit of rage while out celebrating her upcoming nuptials with her fiancé.
An event planner who is accused of shoving an elderly Broadway vocal coach to her death in a seemingly unprovoked attack has rejected a plea deal offer from prosecutors.
Emily Tuttle, deputy communications director for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office confirmed to Oxygen.com that prosecutors had offered Lauren Pazienza, a former event organizer who hails from a wealthy Long Island family, a deal for 15 years behind bars and five years of supervised release in the death of 87-year-old Barbara Gustern.
Pazienza’s attorney told The New York Post that Pazienza has turned down the deal twice.
If convicted on the manslaughter charge against her, she could be facing up to 25 years in prison.
Pazienza had been out celebrating her upcoming nuptials with her fiancé on the night of March 10 when, according to prosecutors, she went on a wine-fueled rampage, allegedly shoving Gustern on a Manhattan street with such force that the elderly woman fell to the pavement and injured her head, according to a complaint in the case obtained by Oxygen.com.
The vocal coach, who had once worked with Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry, died five days later from her injuries at a local hospital.
Pazienza is facing one count of first-degree manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault in connection with the death.
On Tuesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Felicia Mennin rejected Pazienza's attorney’s attempts to have the manslaughter charge against her thrown out.
“Obviously we are disappointed by the judge’s ruling,” attorney Arthur Aidala told The Post. “We feel that pushing someone one time, not knowing their age or any disability rises to the level to satisfy the elements of manslaughter in the first degree. We will keep pursuing justice the best we can.”
He described his client, who is currently behind bars on Riker’s Island while she awaits trial, as “hanging in there.”
Pazienza and her fiancé had been out visiting art galleries on March 10 when the couple decided to take a food cart meal into Chelsea Park, according to The New York Times.
Pazienza allegedly flew into a rage when a park employee told her they’d have to leave because the park was closing soon. She is accused of verbally assaulting the employee before hurling her food at her fiancé and storming out of the park.
As she made her way down 28th street — not far from the park — prosecutors said a witness reported seeing the 5’7” Suffolk County native run into Gustern, who stood at just 4’11”, and shove her down, causing the 87-year-old to fall and hit her head on the pavement, according to the court documents.
Gustern, who was bleeding profusely from the head, later told a friend who had tried to help her that a long-haired woman had walked "directly toward her," called her a “b----” and shoved her "as hard as Ms. Gustern had ever been hit in her life," according to the complaint.
The older woman was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where she died five days later of blunt force trauma to the head.
After the incident, Pazienza allegedly called her fiancé and they rejoined one another not far from where an ambulance had arrived to take Gustern to the hospital, The Times reported.
Instead of telling him about the incident, prosecutors said she started to argue with him once again and accused him of ruining her night.
As the couple were getting ready for bed that night, prosecutors said she confided to her fiancé that she had shoved someone.
After the incident was covered in the media, authorities said she fled to her parent’s house on Long Island, deleted her social media accounts and hid out at an aunt’s house, before ultimately turning herself into police.
Pazienza was briefly released on a $500,000 bail until she was determined to be a “serious flight risk” and sent to Riker’s Island, where she remains behind bars.
Before her death, Gustern had been a beloved vocal coach, working with Broadway singers and rock stars throughout her career.
One of her former students, identified as Marie, has been a fixture at every court hearing to show support to her slain teacher, who she described as “an angel.”
“Like, what are they gonna say — that she was just in a bad mood because she got kicked out of a park?” Marie told The Post Tuesday. “There is some sort of need for justice.”