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Lauren Pazienza reaches plea deal for 8 years in shoving death of 87-year-old vocal coach Barbara Gustern

Lauren Pazienza reaches plea deal in death of vocal coach
Lauren Pazienza reaches plea deal in death of vocal coach 00:33

NEW YORK -- A plea deal was announced Wednesday in the case of a Queens woman who randomly pushed a beloved 87-year-old vocal coach to the ground, killing her. 

Lauren Pazienza pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter in exchange for a shorter sentence. 

Pazienza, 27, walked into the courtroom teary eyed, handcuffed and wearing bright lipstick. She withdrew her not guilty plea. 

"Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty?" the judge asked. 

"Yes," Pazienza said, in exchange for a sentence of eight years in state prison and five years post-release supervision. Had it gone to trial, she was facing up to 25 years. 

In March 2022, Pazienza, who police said had been drinking heavily with her fiancé, left Chelsea Park angry and crossed the street toward 87-year-old Barbara Gustern at West 29th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. 

Pazienza called Gustern, who was a stranger to her, an expletive then pushed her to the ground. Gustern hit her head on the pavement before losing consciousness told the friend she was with she had never been hit that hard in her life. 

Pazienza walked away and left her there. Gustern later died at the hospital. 

Prosecutors said Pazienza took the subway back to her Queens apartment with her fiancé and said nothing about the push until later that night. She deleted her social media, took down her wedding website and fled to Long Island to stay with family. 

Her parents and her attorney said nothing as they exited the courtroom. 

Friends and family of Gustern, a beloved vocal coach, filled several rows in the courtroom. 

"I am personally disappointed with the plea deal. I would've like to see it gone to trial," Barbara Gustern's grandson A.J. Maier Gustern said. "She was my best friend. My mentor. New York City used to be a second home to me now I'm not quite sure how it feels to be here, honestly."   

Friends of Gustern, who have been at every court date, we're hoping for a longer sentence. 

"I was expecting there would be at least ten years. But at least it was Manslaughter 1, and there's some accountability she admitted what she did," Gustern's friend Conor Weiss said. 

"The vicious selfishness that she exhibited by killing our friend makes me hope that she serves her time hard," Libby Edwards said. 

Her grandson will have the opportunity to address Pazienza next month. 

"Lauren, you're extremely lucky I hope you learn some empathy," A.J. Maier Gustern said. 

Pazienza will be sentenced September 29th. 

"Lauren Pazienza aggressively shoved Barbara Gustern to the ground and walked away as the beloved New Yorker lay there bleeding. Today's plea holds Pazienza accountable for her deadly actions," said District Attorney Alvin Bragg. "We continue to mourn the loss of Barbara Gustern, a talented musical theater performer and vocal coach who touched so many in New York City and beyond."  

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