New York City shoving suspect Lauren Pazienza, accused of bowling over an 87-year-old woman in an allegedly unprovoked attack on March 10, was indicted by a grand jury this week and is due in court in mid-May for her arraignment, prosecutors revealed Wednesday.
Pazienza, 26, allegedly rushed Barbara Gustern, 87, called her a "b----" and shoved her from behind in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The victim fell, struck her head and died of her injuries days later.
She faces one count of first-degree manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault, all felonies. She could face between five and 25 years behind bars.
Gustern was a vocal coach whose clients have included celebrities like Debbie Harry from "Blondie" as well as Kimilee Bryant, a South Carolinian performer who refers to her former mentor as her "New York mom" and who told Fox News Digital that Gustern and her late husband had taken her in when she arrived in the Big Apple years ago for her first stint on Broadway in "Phantom."
"We'd really become close, because -- they really adopted lots of sort of strays as they would call us -- for holidays because we couldn't go home," she said. "I couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving. We had a show."
Gustern’s mourners have praised her as a welcoming, kind person and beloved Broadway fixture, as figures from Pazienza’s past have criticized her has spiteful and mean.
Pazienza’s attorney Arthur Aidala, speaking to reporters outside a Manhattan courtroom in March, disputed those characterizations and expressed condolences to Gustern’s family, calling her death "a tragedy."
"Nobody doubts that this is a tragedy," he said, after Pazienza’s mother posted bail. "We're just going to get to the bottom of really what happened that day after we have all of the evidence that's in possession of the prosecutor because we don't have any of it."
He said his client had grown up in a "middle class New York suburban environment" and had "a wonderful fiancé."
The fiancé, Naveen Pereira, was also allegedly present when Gustern died. They were slated to marry in June.
"The whole family is traumatized, but everyone is very supportive of her," Aidala said. "They know who Lauren is. They know who she's not. They knowthat she's a very, very good person at heart and they're all here to support her the best that they can."