Journalist brutally murdered at Midtown hotel

January 8, 2011 10:48:10 AM PST
Police say a man is in custody in connection with the castration and bludgeoning death of a television journalist at a posh Midtown hotel.

Prominent Portuguese journalist and gay activist Carlos Antonio De Castro, 65, was found murdered in the recently opened Intercontinental Hotel on West 44 Street, police said.

A concerned friend of Castro contacted hotel security on Friday. Hotel workers found the body around 7:00 Friday night in a room on the 34th floor.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators believe Castro and his partner, Renato Seabra, got into a heated argument that escalated into gruesome and deadly violence. Hotel guests had reported hearing fighting coming from the room.

Officials said Castro had been castrated and beaten.

They had come to New York in late December to see some Broadway shows and spend New Year's Eve in Times Square, according to a family friend.

There had been some friction between the two men toward the end of the trip, but nothing to suggest that anything horrible was about to happen, said the friend, Luis Pires, the editor of the Portuguese language newspaper Luso-Americano.

"I think that they were a little bit upset with each other, for jealousy reasons," Pires said.

The couple saw the musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," took in the movie "The Black Swan," and were supposed to meet Pires's daughter for dinner Friday when Seabra suddenly emerged in the lobby acting strangely, he said.

"He told my daughter, 'Carlos will never leave the hotel again,"' said Pires. He said his daughter, distraught, fetched a hotel manager. Security guards opened the door to the room and found the body.

Seabra left the scene, but was detained by police hours later after he sought care at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, not far from the hotel. He was being evaluated Saturday at Bellevue Hospital Center, across town. No charges had been filed against Seabra as of Saturday afternoon, the New York Police Department said.

Seabra was a contestant last year on a Portuguese TV show called "A Prodcura Do Sonho," or "Pursuit of a Dream," which hunts for modeling talent.

He didn't win the show but did get a modeling contract with an agency founded by Fatima Lopes, who developed the show and was a judge on it.

Seabra had always been interested in fashion, he told the Independente de Cantanhede newspaper in September.

"I have entered this world, and I don't want to leave it because I see I can be successful," he said.

Castro was admired in Portugal for his bravery in coming out as a gay man and "revealing the feminine side of his personality," said Rui Pedro Tendinha, a fellow journalist who knew Castro.

Castro was a high-profile public figure as a journalist and TV personality, Tendinha said.

"The way he died is causing a big commotion in Portugal," he said.

"Any death is tragic but this one is especially sad," said Carlos Picarra, the founder of Portugal's Lux and VIP celebrity magazines. "This is hard to understand."

He called Castro a "very open, ambitious guy" whom he respected.

Designer Ana Salazar, considered a fashion pioneers in Portugal, recalled Castro's role as one of the country's first social columnists.

"I was both in his best- and worst-dressed lists in the '80s," she said.

She said she was shocked by his death.

"It's like something out of a horror movie," she added.

The death is the second recent slaying in an upscale New York hotel room.

Swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay, 33, was found strangled and drowned in a bathtub at the trendy Soho House hotel on Dec. 9. Her boyfriend Nicholas Brooks has pleaded not guilty in her death.

Brooks, the 24-year-old son of "You Light Up My Life" writer and Oscar winner Joseph Brooks, has been held without bail since his arrest.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this story.