NYC socialite accused in elderly shove death bullied classmates in school

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NEW YORK – EXCLUSIVE: A classmate of New York City socialite and manslaughter suspect Lauren Pazienza said she bullied him in school.

Pazienza, 26, is facing first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault charges after allegedly shoving an 87-year-old Broadway vocal coach to her death in an unprovoked attack. 

A former classmate who spoke to Fox News Digital on the condition of anonymity claimed that when he moved a few doors down from Pazienza in the second grade, she began bullying him.

The defendant “always had a crazy look in her eyes,” the classmate said, alleging that she would kick him and call other kids names. He also claimed that a teacher had to move their seats apart in one classroom due to the bullying.

Manslaughter suspect Lauren Pazienza’s yearbook photo. (Fox News Digital)

At Ward Melville High School located in the historic, middle-class town of Setauket, New York, where Pazienza grew up, a teacher told Fox News Digital that her colleagues with children who went to school with Pazienza recalled her as “odd.” She graduated from the high school in 2013.

A Manhattan judge set Pazienza’s bail at $500,000 or $1 million bond during a Tuesday afternoon court appearance, despite prosecutors’ request that the 26-year-old woman be remanded.

“We are pleased that the Court granted bail to Ms. Pazienza, and we expect her to be released in the coming days,” Pazienza’s attorney, Arthur Aidala, who has represented clients ranging from Rudy Giuliani to Harvey Weinstein, told Fox News Digital. “We anxiously await the production of the discovery material by the District Attorney’s Office. The Pazienza family joins the rest of the City in grieving the loss of Barbara Gustern.”

Pazienza mugshot.

Pazienza is accused of pushing Barbara Gustern — the elderly victim whom she did not know — violently to the ground in the area of West 28th Street and Eighth Avenue on March 10 just before 8:30 p.m. ET. She then fled the scene. Pazienza also allegedly called Gustern a “b—” before the attack, according to a criminal complaint.

Gustern’s head was bleeding after the fall, and eyewitnesses rushed to help her stand after the alleged assault. Before losing consciousness, the victim allegedly told a friend that Pazienza hit her “as hard as she had ever been hit in her life,” the complaint states.

Authorities rushed Gustern to the hospital and performed life-saving measures, but she eventually lost her brain function in the hospital. Doctors put her on life support before pronouncing her dead several days later on March 15.

Barbara Gustern in this undated photo 

Police later used surveillance footage to track down their suspect and determined that she stayed in the area for more than 20 minutes after the attack and was spotted having a physical altercation with a man, believed to be her fiancé, roughly seven minutes after the victim was shoved, the complaint states. 

Thirteen minutes after the attack, Pazienza was allegedly seen watching the ambulance as it arrived in the area to help the victim and take her away. She and her fiancé allegedly left the area soon after and were seen entering New York City’s Penn Station 30 minutes later. Footage also captured her arriving at her Astoria home around 9:50 p.m. ET  in the same clothes she wore at the scene.

Prosecutors further allege that Pazienza then took steps to avoid being caught, such as deleting her social media and her wedding website, fleeing to her parents’ Long Island home and stashing her cell phone at a relative’s home, the complaint states. 

Lauren Pazienza being led into a New York City courthouse on March 22, 2022.
(Curtis Means)

But police received at least two tips identifying Pazienza as their suspect. 

Aidala previously told reporters that his client has “been accused of a horrible act.”

“She’s a very moral, right, just person who went to high school, went to college, has a job, a fiancé, has a family. And for her she’s in the twilight zone. She’s destroyed,” he said.

Lauren Pazienza being led into a New York City courthouse on March 22, 2022 
(Curtis Means)

Pazienza’s family home is located in Port Jefferson, New York. Sources told Fox News Digital she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and worked at the high-end furniture company Roche Bobois before she resigned from her position in December 2021.


Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said Tuesday that Pazienza represents a serious flight risk after allegedly evading law enforcement for nearly two weeks prior to her capture. She faces up to 25 years in prison for the manslaughter charge. Pazienza’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 25.

Gustern was a longtime singing coach who worked with Broadway casts and music stars including “Blondie” vocalist Debbie Harry, according to the New York Times. 

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