They both ran in the upper echelons of New York artistic society.
Barbara Maier Gustern, 87, was a vocal coach for rock stars and stage performers, a beloved grandmother-character who vowed to teach until she died at the piano. Lauren Pazienza, more than 60 years her junior, was an events planner from New York pictured hobnobbing at high-class soirees in Manhattan.
Their paths collided – literally – on a New York City sidewalk this month. Ms Gustern ended up dead; Ms Pazienza, 26, fled to her parents’ tony home de ella on the North Shore of Long Island, deleting her social media, LinkedIn and even her wedding website de ella as she hid from authorities.
She eventually turned herself in on Tuesday to the NYPD, charged with a manslaughter in the death of Ms Gustern, who succumbed to her injuries after being shoved on 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 occurred on the evening of 22 March, when Ms Gustern was walking on 28th Street and 8th Avenue near her Chelsea apartment. Ms Pazienza, originally from Long Island but living in Queens, was also in the neighbourhood.
For some reason, she pushed the vocal coach and called her an expletive, then watched from across the street as Ms Gustern lay bleeding on the street, an ambulance arrived and whisked her off. She didn’t try to help; she didn’t say a word. Instead, the 26-year-old casually wandered away and took the subway.
Then she vanished. But her face was everywhere.
Because Ms Gustern lay dying in the hospital, succumbing days later to what her grandson called “traumatic damage to the left side of her brain.”
“I’ve never been hit so hard in my life,” she told a friend as she waited for police and medics to arrive – before losing consciousness and never regaining it.
The outrage over what cops called an unprovoked attack on an elderly woman was palpable, as the NYC performance community reacted with horror and authorities released CCTV images of a woman who would later be named as Ms Pazienza.
It took nearly two weeks for the engaged Long Island native to turn herself in, and that was only after she was allegedly identified from video and her MetroCard, used to access NYC public transportation.
Following the altercation with Ms Gustern, the 26-year-old scrubbed her social media presence, aside from a Twitter account she last used as a teenager.
In a tragically foreshadowing post, she tweeted in 2011: “before regretting moments in your life, think if you ever smiled throughout those moments before regretting them.”
Ms Pazienza may have forgotten about that account, but she went to great pains to avoid arrest. When authorities arrived at her parents’ home de ella in Port Jefferson on Long Island – valued at more than $800,000 and just minutes from the water – her father de ella claimed she was n’t there and denied search access.
Daniel and Caroline Pazienza did not return a message left Wednesday by The Independent. He owns a lucrative cesspool business, and his wife has taught fitness classes for the elderly in Port Jefferson.
An employee who answered the phones at the business of Mr Pazienza – who also serves as district manager for a local volunteer fire department – told The Independent the suspect’s father would not be available to speak anytime soon.
The Pazienzas were at court on Tuesday but declined to speak when their daughter was arraigned; she’s being represented by one of the most powerful attorneys in the country, Arthur Aidala, whose clients have included Rudy Giuliani, Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein.
While Ms Pazienza worked in event planning for a French company, Roche Bobois, a spokesperson told The Independent she had left months ago.
She’d graduated from Ward Melville High School on the Island, along with her fiance, Naveen Pereira; then Ms Pazienza attended New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology while he, according to her LinkedIn, attended Georgia Institute of Technology before taking jobs at IBM and now Microsoft.
The now-defunct site for their wedding, which was scheduled for June on Long Island, showed a happy couple frolicking in rustic surroundings just miles from where they spent their teen years.
The memorial sites for Ms Gustern, whose service is scheduled in New York City for this weekend at the church where she volunteered, showed a petite, well-dressed older woman with an open face and big smile.
Her grandson, AJ Gustern, announced her death on Facebook, writing: “We have lost one of the brightest little flames to ever grace this world. Bobbob, I love you, you are and always will be my heart.”
Ms Gustern was a well-regarded and accomplished singing instructor. Among other clients, she coached Blondie singer Debbie Harry and the 2019 cast of the musical Oklahoma!
Ms Pazienza’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, has claimed she was “overcharged” and said Tuesday: “She’s a very moral, right, just person. She was crying. She was in pain. She she’s accused of a very horrible act.”
Mr Aidala said Ms Pazienza’s parents would pay her $500,000 bail,
The 26-year-old is due in court again on Friday and could face 25 years in prison if found guilty.