Woman sought in fatal Manhattan shoving allegedly tried to hide

(CNN) — A 26-year-old woman sought in the fatal shoving of an elderly woman on a Manhattan street allegedly fled the city, ditched her phone and deleted her social media — including the website for her upcoming wedding.

An anonymous tip led investigators to her parents’ house, and Lauren Pazienza surrendered on Tuesday, almost two weeks after the attack on a street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

At her arraignment, she was charged with one count of first-degree manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault. Judge Michael Gaffey set Pazienza’s cash bail at $500,000.

The charges stem from the death of Barbara Maier Gustern, an 87-year-old Broadway vocal coach, who police said was pushed from behind around 8:30 p.m. on March 10 near her Chelsea apartment building. She hit her head on the sidewalk and began bleeding profusely.

Gustern remained conscious long enough to give police the details of the attack: She said a woman she didn’t know had crossed the street, called her a bitch and pushed her “as hard as she had ever been hit in her life.” The assailant then walked away. There was “no apparent reason” for the attack, the criminal complaint said.

Barbara Gustern. (Family photo via CNN) 

Gustern died in a hospital five days later. The New York City medical examiner’s office concluded the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, according to the criminal complaint.

Police initially released a short video clip of the suspect on the street, which was widely shared by Gustern’s distraught family and friends. On Friday, after her death, clearer images of the suspect were released.

Surveillance video appeared to show Pazienza staying in the area for at least 20 minutes after the attack, Associate District Attorney Justin McNabney said. Gustern had been taken into the apartment building’s lobby by a witness to the assault.

Seven minutes after the attack, cameras recorded a “physical altercation” between Pazienza and a man believed to be her fiance, McNabney said. Pazienza was still in the area six minutes after that, and she apparently saw the ambulance arrive for Gustern.

Pazienza and the man then took a train from Penn Station to the Astoria neighborhood, in Queens, where they share a home.

Prosecutors accuse Pazienza of attempting to evade apprehension, leaving New York City for her parents’ house on Long Island. She stopped using her cell phone and left it at her aunt’s house to avoid discovery, McNabney said. Among the online accounts she deleted was the website for her wedding, which was scheduled for June 18.

After the tip that Pazienza was on Long Island, police went to her parents’ house in Port Jefferson. Her father denied she was there, McNabney said.

Pazienza’s attorney later called the police and arranged for his client to turn herself in on Tuesday.

Pazienza did not enter a plea at the arraignment, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Her next hearing is set for Friday.

The New York Times reported that Pazienza’s LinkedIn profile, which had been taken down as of Tuesday, listed her as an event coordinator for the high-end furniture company Roche Bobois. A spokeswoman for the company said Pazienza resigned in December.