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Experts say socialite charged with killing NYC vocal coach may face more trouble for hiding out

Experts say that a manslaughter charge against a 26-year-old woman who allegedly shoved a beloved 87-year-old vocal coach to her death earlier this month is likely to stick, as evidence of the assault and her attempt to skip town continue to mount.

Lauren Pazienza, 26, was charged with one count of first degree manslaughter and two counts of second degree assault on Tuesday. She is being held at Rikers Island on $500,000 cash bail and faces up to 25 years in prison.

The socialite was allegedly caught on video shortly after prosecutors say she pushed Barbara Gustern in a sidewalk in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea on March 10, in an assault seen by a witness.

Gustern hit her head and died at a hospital four days later. 

‘The question is, is pushing down an 80-year-old onto the pavement – did you intent to physically injure her? That’s a question for the jury or the grand jury, but I believe that facts that I know now make out that [manslaughter] charge,’ former Bronx prosecutor Michael Discioarro told DailyMail.com.

Attorney and law professor Dmitriy Shakhnevich says evidence that Pazienza deleted her social media profiles, quit her job and fled to her parents’ Long Island home after the incident will make defending her a difficult job for her lawyers. 

‘Flight is perfect evidence of guilt. That will be presented to a jury. You’re gonna have the prosecutor say, “Why would she run if she’s not guilty? Why would she not stick around?”

Experts say manslaughter charges against Lauren Pazienza, 26, are likely to stick because of the evidence mounted against her after she allegedly shoved an elderly woman to her death. Above, Pazienza at an anniversary party for New York society magazine Avenue in 2015

Pazienza made no comment as she was taken out of the 10th Precinct to the courthouse on Tuesday, where she was arraigned on charges of manslaughter and second-degree assault

Pazienza made no comment as she was taken out of the 10th Precinct to the courthouse on Tuesday, where she was arraigned on charges of manslaughter and second-degree assault 

Police issued these images of Pazienza on Saturday, claiming she was responsible for the attack. She handed herself in two days later but it's unclear if she has admitted to pushing the woman over

Police issued these images of Pazienza on Saturday, claiming she was responsible for the attack. She handed herself in two days later but it’s unclear if she has admitted to pushing the woman over 

Broadway singing coach Barbara Maier Gustern, 87, died in a hospital last week after she was put on life support following the random shoving attack

Broadway singing coach Barbara Maier Gustern, 87, died in a hospital last week after she was put on life support following the random shoving attack

‘The defense lawyer would get up there and say she was scared and afraid. You’re gonna get the same thing you do in every case,’ added Shakhnevich, an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Both Discioarro and Shakhnevich believe that more evidence is needed to determine whether more serious charges cold be on the way.

In New York, a person is guilty of first degree manslaughter when, ‘with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person.’  

'Flight is perfect evidence of guilt,' John Jay college professor and attorney Dmitriy Shakhnevich told DailyMail.com

‘Flight is perfect evidence of guilt,’ John Jay college professor and attorney Dmitriy Shakhnevich told DailyMail.com

Before she lost consciousness, Gustern told police and a friend that an unfamiliar woman crossed the street, approached her directly, called her a ‘b***h’ and shoved her ‘as hard as she had ever been hit in her life.’

Prosecutors say Pazienza stayed in the area for about 20 minutes after the attack, arguing with her fiancé on a nearby sidewalk before returning to the scene of the crime to watch as an ambulance arrived, according to surveillance footage from the area. 

'This is not a good case for the defense. She has no sympathy,' said attorney Michael S. Discioarro

‘This is not a good case for the defense. She has no sympathy,’ said attorney Michael S. Discioarro

‘The prosecutors gonna say, “With the facts I have, she pushed an old lady to the ground, she stayed to see what kind of trouble she was in, when she saw the cops were looking for her, she knew she had to get out of there, she left the city and erased her social media and website and tried to disappear, and she only turned herself in when it became national news,”‘ Discioarro said. 

‘This is not a good case for the defense. She has no sympathy.

‘I can’t imagine going to trial in this case,’ he added. ‘Unless the prosecution makes a ridiculous offer, I just don’t think this is a sympathetic client, and the media coverage is not sympathetic to her. What’s your argument, that you’re allowed to push old ladies in the street?’

Shakhnevich says the manslaughter charge is likely to remain just that.

‘That is as strong as they seem to be able to allege right now. Unless they can allege that she intended to kill, which is a stretch it seems, then manslaughter is as good as you’re gonna get,’ he said.

He added: ‘It’ll be interesting to see what the evidence is in the coming weeks and months.’

Prosecutors claim Pazienza spent the two weeks after the attack trying to cover her tracks. 

She quit her job, deleted her social media pages and even stashed her cell phone at her aunt’s house in Long Island after fleeing her Astoria apartment, where she lives with her Microsoft-employee fiancé. 

Pazienza, seen on family vacation as a teenager, appears to have lived a life of privilege, and later glamour in New York City's high society

Pazienza, seen on family vacation as a teenager, appears to have lived a life of privilege, and later glamour in New York City’s high society

Pazienza is currently jailed on Rikers Island -- but grew up in an affluent family on Long Island and enjoyed Manhattan's high society

She is seen above in photos from her teenage years

Pazienza is currently jailed on Rikers Island — but grew up in an affluent family on Long Island. She is seen above in photos from her teenage years

On Tuesday, assistant district attorney Justin McNabney argued in court that Pazienza was a serious flight risk after evading arrest for nearly two weeks, and asked that she be denied bail, but Judge Michael Gaffey declined and set bail at $500,000 cash, or $1 million if the amount is partially secured or paid by an insurance company.

It does not appear that Pazienza has posted bond, but her attorney said Tuesday that her parents were making arrangements to secure the funds as soon as possible. 

Though Pazienza she appears to have lived a life of privilege, and later glamour in New York City’s high society, neighbors told the New York Post that she was sharp-tempered and confrontational, and an elementary classmate has claimed she bullied fellow students.

Pazienza grew up in historic Setauket, Long Island, where she attended Ward Melville High School with her future fiancé, Microsoft customer support specialist Naveen Pereira.

Pazienza's parents Caroline and Daniel. Prosecutors say she hid at her parents' home for days and that they lied to cops when they went looking for her, claiming she was  not there

Pazienza’s parents Caroline and Daniel. Prosecutors say she hid at her parents’ home for days and that they lied to cops when they went looking for her, claiming she was  not there 

Pazienza's father Daniel owns a prosperous third-generation cesspool draining company (above), and claims on the company website that it was voted No. 1 in both price and service in Suffolk County for several years running

Pazienza’s father Daniel owns a prosperous third-generation cesspool draining company (above), and claims on the company website that it was voted No. 1 in both price and service in Suffolk County for several years running

Prosecutors say that on Monday, NYPD detectives visited the parents' Long Island home (above) after receiving a tip that Pazienza was hiding out there, but that her father claimed that she was not at home and did not consent to a search

Prosecutors say that on Monday, NYPD detectives visited the parents’ Long Island home (above) after receiving a tip that Pazienza was hiding out there, but that her father claimed that she was not at home and did not consent to a search

A former classmate of Pazienza’s told Fox News that when he moved in down the street from her in second grade, she began bullying him. 

The classmate said that Pazienza always had a ‘crazy look in her eyes’ and would kick him and call him and other kids names. 

Lauren Pazienza, 26, was arraigned on charges of manslaughter and assault on Tuesday in Manhattan

Lauren Pazienza, 26, was arraigned on charges of manslaughter and assault on Tuesday in Manhattan

Her father Daniel owns a prosperous third-generation cesspool draining company, and claims on the company website that it was voted No. 1 in both price and service in Suffolk County for several years running.

Paziensa’s parents Daniel and Caroline, who have been married for 28 years, enjoyed a life of prosperity, taking vacations to Aruba, France, and the Florida Keys over the years, photos on Facebook show.

The family later moved to Port Jefferson, where Paziena allegedly fled to hide in her parents’ home after Gustern’s death.

After graduating high school in 2013, Paziena earned a bachelors degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Photos show her enjoying glamorous parties in Manhattan in recent years, including the 40th-anniversary party for New York society magazine Avenue in 2015.

Pazienza had recently been living in an Astoria condo with her fiancé, who purchased the unit in 2019 with his father.

Neighbors told the Post that they were not entirely surprised to learn of the charges against Pazienza, saying that she was known to have a short fuse and was frequently confrontational.

After graduating high school in 2013, Paziena (above) earned a bachelors degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology

After graduating high school in 2013, Paziena (above) earned a bachelors degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology

Pazienza and her fiance live in a one bedroom apartment in Astoria, Queens, which his family owns. Their doorman building is pictured 

‘There’s always some type of issue, some type of complaint. You’ll always know it’s her. It’s ridiculous,’ one said.

One neighbor said Pazienza argued with the building management about issues like parking tickets, but that it never got physical.

‘It was verbal. Sometimes she would stand up for herself, definitely,’ said the woman. ‘She will not put up with nonsense … she will say, ‘What is your problem?’ ‘What do you want from me?’

‘There was always an issue with her and someone in the building,’ one neighbor told the outlet. ‘It’s like always something with that lady. I feel for her fiancé because he’s a nice guy and he didn’t sign up for this.’ 

Following Pazienza’s surrender and arraignment after a citywide manhunt, Gustern’s grandson AJ expressed his relief that she faces trial for the killing, with a potential prison sentence of up to 25 years.

AJ, who has served as a family spokesman since his grandmother's death, is seen with her above. He affectionately referred to her as 'bobbob' and remembered her as 'a force of nature'

AJ, who has served as a family spokesman since his grandmother’s death, is seen with her above. He affectionately referred to her as ‘bobbob’ and remembered her as ‘a force of nature’

‘It’s entering a new phase of grief,’ AJ told WCBS-TV. ‘There is a sense of closure.’

‘I’d like to stress, innocent until proven guilty,’ he said. ‘If she did do this, then I would like answers.’ 

He continued, addressing his grandmother’s accused killer: ‘But I’m still praying for you, and the karmic weight you’ve taken on is incredible. May God help you.’  

AJ, who has served as the family spokesperson, described the devastation of losing his grandmother, whom he affectionately called ‘bobbob’. 

‘She was a force of nature. I called her a little neutron star, right, a ball of energy, building community everywhere she went,’ he said. 

Gustern once coached Blondie singer Debbie Harry. She was on her way to watch a student perform at Joe’s Pub, which she did often, when Pazienza allegedly pushed her outside of her building in Chelsea, according to the New York Times

AJ said in a Facebook post that Gustern’s funeral will be held at 2pm on Saturday at Holy Apostles Church in Chelsea. 

The church has requested that mourners not send flowers there, as it is currently the solemn liturgical season of Lent.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Experts say socialite charged with killing NYC vocal coach may face more trouble for hiding out SourceExperts say socialite charged with killing NYC vocal coach may face more trouble for hiding out

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