NEW YORK (AP) — An Academy Award-winning songwriter’s son told police he left his swimsuit designer girlfriend sleeping in a trendy hotel room where she was found strangled and drowned hours later, a court document showed Tuesday as he pleaded not guilty to murdering her.
The newly released document provides the first detailed look at Nicholas Brooks’ complicated account — including an apartment fire and some cocaine-fueled carousing with someone he’d apparently just met — of the hours surrounding Sylvie Cachay’s headline-grabbing Dec. 9 death. Brooks says he had nothing to do with her death and told police he never even went near the tub.
But a prosecutor said there was “no question” Brooks killed Cachay.
“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 told a court.
Brooks, the 24-year-old son of “You Light Up My Life” writer Joseph Brooks, has been held without bail since his arrest. 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.
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. Brooks wasn’t there when her body was found by hotel staffers who’d been alerted after water started leaking through to the floor below. He came back to find police at the hotel, a move his lawyer says supports his innocence.
“It sort of belies reality that if you intentionally killed somebody … that you would do this,” attorney Jeffrey C. Hoffman said Tuesday. “I believe, from what I know now, he was not present in the premises when the young lady died.”
But authorities have said no one but Brooks and a hotel staffer who briefly delivered ice — escorted by Brooks — were in Cachay’s hotel room between the time the couple checked into it and when her body was found.
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 the account of Brooks’ statements to police that prosecutors filed Tuesday. A lawyer for Cachay’s family, Susan Karten, 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 blaze, 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 hip watering hole with a man he met in the hotel lobby, he told police. The two spent some hours at the bar and the other man’s apartment, drinking beers and using cocaine before Brooks went back to the hotel, Brooks told police.
Authorities haven’t identified the man, and Hoffman said he didn’t know the man’s name. An employee at the bar said Tuesday that the general manager wasn’t available.
After being arrested, Brooks peppered police with questions, told them he had a trust fund he could tap for bail money and expressed anxiety about getting beaten up in jail, pointing to the brutal TV prison drama “Oz,” according to court documents.
Among his questions: “How long can I get for something like this?” the documents said.
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.
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.
Associated Press writer Claudia Torrens contributed to this report.