Published December 11, 2010
NEW YORK -- The son of an Oscar-winning songwriter was arrested Friday on charges of choking his Peruvian-born girlfriend, a fashion designer found dead and half-clothed in a bathtub overflowing with water in a posh hotel, police said.
Nicholas Brooks, 24, was arrested on charges of attempted murder and strangulation in the death of Sylvie Cachay, who was discovered around 3 a.m. Thursday at the Soho House hotel. He has been at a police precinct more than a day and was cooperating with investigators, who obtained a search warrant to take swabs from under his fingernails.
Police said the death was ruled a homicide, but the medical examiner's office has not determined a cause of death pending toxicology test results after an autopsy was inconclusive. The results could take days.
Brooks, the son of "You Light Up My Life" writer Joseph Brooks, has an attorney, but police didn't know the lawyer's name. His father, who is in unrelated legal trouble, has not commented on the case and doesn't know who is representing his son, according to the elder Brooks' attorney.
The 33-year-old Cachay, wearing a black top and underwear, was found submerged in the oval tub, face up, after hotel staff noticed the ceiling below her room was leaking. She had red marks around her neck and a bite mark on her hand, investigators said.
A bottle of prescription pills was found in the room, but no illegal drugs were found.
Before the body was found, Brooks was seen leaving the hotel, then returning and leaving again. According to police, he told investigators he ran into a friend at the lobby, and the two left to get drinks. He returned around 3:30 a.m. to find police in the room.
Cachay lived in an apartment in Manhattan's West Village and had a membership to the Soho House, an exclusive club frequented by celebrities. That meant she had access to the rooftop pool, where "Sex and the City" episodes were filmed, and could rent one of the 24 guest rooms at a discount. The hotel has hosted stars like Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts.
Earlier in the week, a candle sparked a small bedroom fire at her apartment, and that may have led her to stay at the Soho House, Browne said.
Cachay and Brooks had been dating about six months, and investigators said some of her friends told them he was erratic. The two started dating after Sylvie's poodle was struck by a car and killed, said her mother, Sylvia Cachay of McLean, Virginia, outside Washington.
"He helped her through all this process, and they became boyfriend and girlfriend," she told WTTG-TV, a local Fox affiliate. "Sylvie always had this idea of helping people, and I think this boy needed help in directing his life."
But on a family vacation in Cancun just two weeks ago, Sylvie told her mother the relationship was over.
"She told me, 'Mommy, we are just friends right now. He's trying, but I told him that I don't want to have a serious relationship or consider marriage if he does not change,"' the mother said.
"My heart is just broken," she said.
A phone call to Cachay's family rang unanswered Friday.
Cachay grew up with dual citizenship, splitting her time between Peru and McLean. She graduated from Marymount University with a degree in design. She worked for Victoria's Secret and left in 2006 to start a swimsuit collection, but had been working at fashion houses again after the economy tanked and she lost her backing.
Brooks' Academy Award-winning father is awaiting trial in an unrelated case. The 72-year-old was accused of raping 11 women he lured to his apartment with the promise of a starring role in a movie. He has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges and is free on bail.
He won the Oscar for Best Original Song for the 1977 ballad "You Light Up My Life." He also wrote and directed the movie "You Light Up My Life," about a comedian who has a one-night stand with a director.
Jeffrey Hoffman, who represents the elder Brooks, said the father hasn't spoken to his son since Cachay's death.
"I spoke to him within the last few months and I was unaware he had a girlfriend," Hoffman said.