Songwriter's son pleads not guilty in NYC hotel slay

January 4, 2011 2:18:00 PM PST
An Academy Award-winning songwriter's son told police he left his swimsuit designer girlfriend woozy from medication and sleeping in a trendy hotel, went out to have beers and do drugs and returned to find police investigating her death, a court document released Tuesday shows.

Nicholas Brooks insisted he'd never gone near the Soho House hotel tub where Sylvie Cachay was found, strangled and drowned, on Dec. 9, according to the document. But as charges against him loomed, the documents say, he asked detectives, "How long can I get for something like this?"

Brooks, the 24-year-old son of "You Light Up My Life" writer Joseph Brooks, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder. Nicholas Brooks' lawyer, Jeffrey C. Hoffman, said he believed the younger Brooks wasn't there when Cachay died, and Brooks was "devastated by the loss."

About a dozen members of Cachay's family converged on a Manhattan court for Brooks' brief appearance, where he uttered nothing more than "not guilty" before being taken back to jail. He's being held without bail.

Cachay, 33, was found half-clothed and face-up in a tub at the Soho House, an elite club and hotel known for hosting celebrities.

While Brooks wasn't there when she was found, "the evidence in this case makes clear that when Nicholas Brooks left Soho House for the last time on Dec. 9, Sylvie Cachay was already dead at the bottom of an overflowing bathtub," Manhattan assistant district attorney Jordan Arnold said Tuesday. "There is no question he committed this horrific murder."

Brooks and Cachay had been dating for about six months, having what Hoffman called "an intense and sharing relationship." But the relationship was on the rocks, according to Cachay's family and an account of Brooks' statements to police that prosecutors filed Tuesday. A lawyer for Cachay's family says the designer was trying to break up with Brooks.

He acknowledged to detectives that they'd been arguing, saying she had been upset with him after finding out he had a history of hiring escorts and she hadn't been satisfied with an apology letter he'd written, the document shows.

But Brooks said "it was not a big deal," according to the document, filed by prosecutors. They have said an apologetic letter from Brooks found in Cachay's purse showed he hadn't accepted that their relationship was ending.

They had rented a movie together the evening of Dec. 8 and had sex before Brooks gave Cachay an unspecified medication and went to take a shower, according to the account of his statements. He told police he stepped out of the shower to find the bed on fire, apparently ignited by candles by the headboard, with Cachay sleeping in it.

Brooks said he smothered the fire, which had burned some of Cachay's hair, and they decided to go to the Soho House, the document said. He told police she fell repeatedly and stumbled into the hotel, so "pilled out" that Brooks checked in while a hotel staffer helped her up to the room at about 12:30 a.m. Dec. 9.

He was in and out of the room, drinking and snacking for a time in the hotel lounge, while she lay in bed, at one point telling him she planned to take a bath to wash her hair, according to the account of his statements. He ultimately woke her up to tell her he was going out, then left for a bar with a man he met in the hotel lobby, he told police.

After he and the other man spent some time drinking and using cocaine, Brooks returned to find police at the hotel responding to Cachay's death, according to his statement.

If convicted, Brooks could face up to life in prison.

Cachay, who grew up in both the U.S. and Peru, worked for Victoria's Secret before leaving in 2006 to start her own swimsuit line. She lost her backing during the recession and had recently returned to working at fashion houses.

"She fought against all odds, as a young woman in the fashion industry, to make a difference," one of her brothers, Patrick Orlando-Cachay, said as he left court Tuesday.

Brooks' arrest came about 18 months after his 72-year-old father was arrested on charges of molesting a series of women lured to his Manhattan apartment for supposed acting auditions. Joseph Brooks has pleaded not guilty to rape and other charges.

He won an Academy Award for best original song for the 1977 ballad "You Light Up My Life," sung by Debby Boone, and he wrote and directed the movie of the same name. It is about a comedian who has a one-night stand with a director.