They both ran in the upper echelons of New York artistic society.
Barbara Maier Gustern, 87, was a vocal coach for rock stars and performing artists, a beloved grandmother who swore to teach piano until her death. Lauren Pazienza, his junior by more than 60 years, was a New York event planner pictured attending high-class parties in Manhattan.
Their paths collided — literally — on a New York sidewalk this month. Mrs. Gustern eventually died; Ms Pazienza, 26, fled to her parents’ Tony home on the North Shore of Long Island, deleting her social media, LinkedIn and even her wedding website as she hid from authorities.
She finally surrendered to the NYPD on Tuesday, charged with manslaughter in the death of Ms Gustern, who succumbed to her injuries after being pushed down the street, falling and hitting her head.
There’s still no explanation for how their seemingly random interaction turned violent and ultimately fatal.
The incident happened on the evening of March 22, as Ms Gustern was walking on 28th Street and 8th Avenue near her flat in Chelsea. Ms. Pazienza, originally from Long Island but living in Queens, was also in the neighborhood.
For some reason she pushed the voice coach and called her an expletive, then looked across the street as Ms Gustern was bleeding in the street, an ambulance arrived and took her away. She didn’t try to help; she didn’t say a word. Instead, the 26-year-old casually walked away and took the subway.
Then she disappeared. But his face was everywhere.
Because Ms Gustern was dying in hospital, succumbing days later to what her grandson called ‘traumatic damage to the left side of her brain’.
“I’ve never been hit so badly in my life,” she told a friend as she waited for police and medics to arrive – only to lose consciousness and never pick her up.
Outrage over what cops said was an unprovoked attack on an elderly woman was palpable, as New York’s performance community reacted in horror and authorities released CCTV footage of a woman who would later be named Mrs. Pazienza.
It took the Long Island-native fiancee nearly two weeks to turn herself in, and only after she was allegedly identified from a video and her MetroCard, used to access New York’s public transit. York.
Following the altercation with Ms Gustern, the 26-year-old wiped her social media presence apart from a Twitter account she last used as a teenager.
In a tragically foreshadowing post, she tweeted in 2011, “Before you regret moments in your life, think if you ever smiled during those moments before you regretted them.”
Ms. Pazienza may have forgotten this account, but she went to great lengths to avoid arrest. When authorities arrived at her parents’ home in Port Jefferson on Long Island – worth more than $800,000 and minutes from the water – her father claimed she was not there and denied access to research.
Daniel and Caroline Pazienza did not return a message left Wednesday by The Independent. He owns a lucrative sump pit business and his wife taught fitness classes for seniors in Port Jefferson.
An employee who answered the phone at Mr Pazienza’s business – who is also a district manager for a local volunteer fire department – said The Independent the suspect’s father would not be available to speak anytime soon.
The Pazienzas were in court on Tuesday but refused to speak when their daughter was arraigned; she is represented by one of the most powerful lawyers in the country, Arthur Aidala, whose clients include Rudy Giuliani, Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein.
While Ms Pazienza worked in event planning for a French company, Roche Bobois, a spokesperson said The Independent she had left months ago.
She had graduated from Ward Melville High School on the island, with her fiancé, Naveen Pereira; then Ms. Pazienza attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York while he, according to his LinkedIn, attended the Georgia Institute of Technology before taking jobs at IBM and now Microsoft.
The now-defunct site of their June wedding on Long Island showed a happy couple frolicking in a rustic setting a few miles from where they spent their teenage years.
Memorials to Ms Gustern, whose service is scheduled in New York this weekend at the church where she volunteered, show a petite, well-dressed elderly woman with an open face and a big smile.
His grandson, AJ Gustern, announced his death on Facebook, writing, “We have lost one of the brightest little flames that has ever graced this world. Bobbob, I love you, you are and always will be my heart.
Ms. Gustern was a renowned and accomplished voice instructor. Among other clients, she coached Blondie singer Debbie Harry and the 2019 cast of the musical Oklahoma!
Ms Pazienza’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, claimed she was ‘overstretched’ and said on Tuesday: ‘She is a very moral, upright and just person. She was crying. She was in pain. She is accused of an act very awful.
Aidala said Ms Pazienza’s parents would post her $500,000 bond,
The 26-year-old is due to appear again on Friday and faces 25 years in prison if convicted.