Woman Arrested in 'Senseless Attack' on NYC Singing Coach

Barbara Gustern, 87, was shoved to the ground
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 15, 2022 7:17 PM CDT
Updated Mar 22, 2022 2:52 PM CDT

(Newser) Update: A 26-year-old woman has been charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of a beloved Broadway singing coach. Lauren Pazienza, of Port Jefferson, Long Island, turned herself into police on Tuesday. Deadline reports there are no indications that Pazienza knew 87-year-old Barbara Maier Gustern, who was shoved from behind while she walked down a Manhattan sidewalk and suffered head injuries that ultimately killed her. Police are describing the attack as unprovoked. The New York Times reports Pazienza has not spoken with investigators and no motive has been established. Our original story from last Tuesday follows:

An 87-year-old singing coach died Tuesday of head injuries from being shoved to the ground on a New York City street, police said while searching for a suspect in what a top official called a "senseless" attack. Barbara Maier Gustern, who had worked with performers on Broadway and beyond, hit her head and was critically injured in the attack Thursday night, the AP reports. A woman crossed the street, came up behind Gustern, and pushed her to the ground on West 23rd Street in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, according to police, who have released surveillance video of the suspect. Police say the woman ran off after the attack.

Chief of Detectives James Essig said the assault was "an unprovoked, senseless attack." "That’s horrific. An 87-year-old woman, just walking down the street, knocked to the ground," Essig said at a news conference Tuesday, deploring the "disgusting and disgraceful offense." Friends told the New York Times that Gustern had just left her apartment to catch a student's performance after hosting a rehearsal for a cabaret show in her apartment. Friends said they opened the lobby door to find Gustern covered in blood.

Gustern, who grew up in Indiana and moved to New York City when she was 21, had been known in the theater world for decades. She worked with singers ranging from the cast members of the 2019 Broadway revival of the musical Oklahoma! to experimental theater artist and 2017 MacArthur "genius grant" recipient Taylor Mac, who told the Times she was "one of the great humans that I’ve encountered." Her late husband, Joe Gustern, was also a singer, with credits including The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. (Read more New York City stories.)

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