The woman accused of fatally shoving an 87-year-old New York City voice coach deleted her wedding website and hid at her parents home after the alleged assault, apparently to elude authorities, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Lauren Pazienza, 26, is also alleged to have deleted her social media accounts and stopped using her cellphone, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Justin McNabney said in a statement.
Pazienza surrendered to police after an anonymous tipster alerted authorities to her location, McNabney said. She was arraigned on charges of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault in the incident on March 10 that killed Barbara Maier Gustern.
Gustern, who died later, told authorities that the person later identified as Pazienza approached her near West 28th Street and 8th Avenue and called her an expletive before she forcibly pushed her to the pavement, McNabney said.
McNabney said the incident occurred without provocation. Additional details about a possible motive weren’t immediately available.
Security video showed Pazienza leaving the scene as Gustern lay bleeding, McNabney said. Pazienza was captured on video nearby in a physical altercation with a man believed to be her fiancé, and she was later seen watching an ambulance arrive at the spot where she is alleged to have pushed Gustern, McNabney said.
She and her fiancé, who were to be married in June, were then captured on video leaving Manhattan by Penn Station, McNabney said.
Pazienza is accused of fleeing her home in Queens to her parents’ house and deleting her social media accounts and her wedding site.
“From that point on, the defendant has made every effort to avoid apprehension,” McNabney said in the statement. “She even took down her wedding web site, despite that fact that she is scheduled to be married in June of this year.”
On Friday, police released clearer photos of the woman wanted in the random nighttime attack.
After the tipster contacted authorities, detectives knocked on the parents’ front door Monday, McNabney said.
McNabney said that after Pazienza’s father told police she wasn’t there, her lawyer contacted authorities and arranged for her surrender.
A message left at a Long Island phone number listed as that of a relative of Pazienza’s wasn’t immediately returned. Her lawyer also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The attorney told reporters that the push could have been accidental.
“Whether it was a push, a shove, or whether it was a kick or someone was tripped — the evidence is not very solid on that at all,” the lawyer said, according to NBC New York.
Gustern died March 15. AJ Gustern, her grandson, who said she suffered traumatic brain damage, told NBC New York that “she was a force of nature” and a “tiny ball of energy building community everywhere she went.”
“To whoever did do this, I’m still praying for you, and the karmic wave that you’ve taken on is incredible,” he told the station. “So God help you.”
Gustern was fondly regarded in New York’s theater community. She coached the cast of the 2019 Broadway revival of the musical “Oklahoma!,” The New York Times reported. She also once coached rock singer Debbie Harry of the group Blondie.