The 26-year-old woman accused of callously shoving an 87-year-old voice coach in an alleged unprovoked attack on a Manhattan street two months ago has been ordered held without bail by a judge who cited the nature of the crime and the defendant's potential as a flight risk in announcing the decision on Tuesday.
Lauren Pazienza was indicted last month on charges including manslaughter and assault in the March 10 push of Barbara Gustern, who was just steps away from her Chelsea home the night of the attack. Gustern suffered traumatic brain damage when she fell to the ground and hit her head on the sidewalk.
She died five days later.
The Manhattan district attorney on Tuesday called it a senseless and unprovoked attack, and that she went to great lengths to avoid law enforcement.
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Neither Pazienza's lawyer nor her parents spoke to reporters as they left court Tuesday. The Long Island woman faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, and is next scheduled to appear in court on July 26.
Prosecutors allege Pazienza behaved guiltily in the aftermath of the sidewalk attack near West 28th Street and Eighth Avenue, deleting her entire online presence including her wedding website, despite being slated to get married in June, and fleeing to her parents' home in Port Jefferson, on Long Island.
She also allegedly stopped using her cellphone, which prosecutors say she stashed at an aunt's house so as to avoid being found by police. The judge considered those elements when denying the bail request.
Pazienza's attorneys said their client is not a flight risk, and that she had a "temper-tantrum" the night of the deadly shove. They added that she had been receiving psychiatric help and counseling since the incident.
"She ran across the street to push an elderly woman for no reason, because she was having a temper tantrum?" asked Jenness Morgan, a friend and former student of Gustern's.
Morgan said she feels bad for Pazienza, but said she should still face serious consequences if found guilty.
"This just seemed like a random. I think the young woman has mental problems, hope she gets help," she said.
An anonymous tip on March 19 identifying Pazienza as the suspect in the attack led the NYPD to her parents' door two days later. Her father answered, telling police his daughter wasn't home and that they were not allowed in, according to prosecutors.
Her surrender was arranged soon after. And a jarring narrative began to emerge.
Prosecutors allege Pazienza crossed the street and cursed at Gustern before violently shoving her to the ground. The elderly woman was left bleeding profusely before a witness helped her into the lobby of her building where she recalled what happened, telling police the push was "as hard as she had ever been hit in her life."
She was dead within the week.
Her attacker appeared to briskly walk off after the incident. Surveillance video from an avenue away minutes after the attack showed a woman matching Pazienza's description walking in the same direction a witness told police the attacker went.
Security video showed Pazienza in and around the area for almost a half-hour after the attack, according to prosecutors. About seven minutes after the shove, she was seen in a physical altercation with a man believed to be her fiancé, prosecutors said.
They also allege Pazienza was later seen watching the ambulance as it arrived at the scene to take Gustern to the hospital.
Additional surveillance footage tracked Pazienza to Penn Station, where police were able to get a clearer image of her, prosecutors said. She and her fiancé were later seen at the transit hub, where both swiped his MetroCard. Detectives were able to track the pair back to their home in Astoria, where video showed Pazienza and her fiancé enter their building about 90 minutes after the attack, prosecutors said.
She was wearing the same clothes as the woman who was seen crossing Ninth Avenue immediately following the attack, they added.
Paziena surrendered to authorities on March 22, with lawyer Arthur Aidala at her side. At the time, Aidala blasted the charges as overblown. He said they were looking forward to seeing the evidence and "trying to get to the bottom of what happened that day," calling what happened to Gustern a "tragedy."
Aidala also said there's no evidence his client watched the victim lying on the street, and that video could show anyone watching. He also implied that the evidence was unclear, saying the push could have been accidental.
"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.
Pazienza is said to be a former event planner. A former employer, French high-end furniture and home accessory designer and retailer Roche Bobois, said the woman resigned from her role in December.
According to The New York Times, Gustern was an acclaimed singing coach who once helped train rock singer Debbie Harry and the cast of the 2019 Broadway revival of the musical "Oklahoma!"
A neighbor said that Gustern used to perform on Broadway herself, along with her late husband.