The death of a beloved 87-year-old singing coach who succumbed to injuries she suffered after a woman shoved her from behind in what authorities describe as a random "unprovoked and senseless" attack has been ruled a homicide, police say.
The NYPD shared the update on Barbara Gustern as they continue to hunt her attacker, who has evaded police for nearly two weeks.
The department released new photos of the suspect on Friday that give the clearest look yet at the woman wanted in the March 10 nighttime attack on a sidewalk near West 28th Street and Eighth Avenue in Chelsea.
Gustern was just steps away from her home, around 8:30 p.m. that night, when cops say the woman attacked her. No words were exchanged before it. And the attacker just casually appeared to walk off afterward.
Gustern fell and hit her head, suffering traumatic brain damage from which she would not recover even if she survived, authorities and the woman's grandson said.
She ended up dying five days after the attack.
NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig delivered an impassioned plea last week as he sought the public's help "solving this disgusting, disgraceful offense committed against a vulnerable, elderly female who was doing nothing but walking down the streets of New York City."
Police have posted flyers around the neighborhood offering a $3,500 reward for any information that helps them find the woman seen in the surveillance video. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.
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.
Stephen Shanaghan, who owns Manhattan restaurant and theater Pangea, called Gustern a "sharp, clever seasoned New York person." Shanaghan said that Gustern had recently performed there, and that she had hoped to premiere a new cabaret show there.
"They sing and they tell stories, it's very heartwarming. And they've done several different shows here," Shanaghan said.