Beau on trial for murder in NY designer's death
FILE- In this March 8, 2011, file photo, Sylvia Cachay, mother of Sylvie Cachay, speaks to the media outside State Supreme court in New York as her husband Antonio Cachay, right, looks on. New York City fashion designer Sylvie Cachay was found dead on found Dec. 9, 2010, in a swanky hotel room’s overflowing bathtub. Prosecutors say her boyfriend, Nicholas Brooks, the son of Joseph Brooks, an Oscar-winning composer who wrote “You Light up My Life,” strangled Cachay when she tried to end their relationship. (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, File)
NEW YORK (AP) — Sylvie Cachay, a promising New York fashion designer, had a dangerous chemistry with her playboy boyfriend, the son of an Academy Award-winning composer. They were only together six months, but they fought like crazy and made up the same way, friends say.
But on Dec. 9, 2010, Cachay's body was found in an overflowing bathtub at a members-only hotel in the Meatpacking District, among the trendiest neighborhoods in the city. She was dressed in a thick black sweater and pink and blue underwear. The faucet was on full blast. Her boyfriend, Nicholas Brooks, was absent — she was discovered by hotel workers responding to a leaky ceiling in the room below. But his DNA was on the faucet, prosecutors said.
The case was a tabloid sensation. "Death at the Soho House: Beauty in the Bath," read the New York Post cover.
Brooks, 25, is now on trial for murder after prosecutors said he strangled the 33-year-old inside the Soho House hotel room because she tried to end their tumultuous relationship. The case is expected to go until early July.
"It was an act as ruthless as it was cowardly," Assistant District Attorney Jordan Arnold said during opening statements.
Brooks has pleaded not guilty. His defense attorney Jeffrey Hoffman suggested Cachay drowned accidentally, passing out from an overdose of prescription pills she took to treat migraines and fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes widespread pain in the body. He said investigators rushed to arrest Brooks because they needed a fast suspect in the high-profile killing that became national news.
"There had to be immediate satisfaction to the press and to the publicity," Hoffman said.
The two were introduced by a friend in 2010, and were on one of their first dates when Cachay's teacup poodle Pepper was run over by a car. She had to euthanize the dog, and Brooks comforted her. The trauma bonded them, her friends said. But the two were constantly on-again, off-again. Cachay didn't like that they would drink too much together, her friends testified.
"Their relationship seemed very passionate, both in a good way and also in a bad way," her friend and personal trainer Cheri Fogelman testified. "Sometimes they were really happy together and sometimes it was really bad, angry hurtful and hard to deal with," she said.
"I think I just broke up with Nick," she texted Fogelman in late November. A few days later she said: "Nick still around."
Brooks was "a young man from a privileged background who liked to party," Arnold said. He was unemployed, dropped out of college and had a penchant for escorts and marijuana, prosecutors said. He is the son of "You Light Up my Life" composer Joseph Brooks, himself arrested in 2009 on rape charges in a casting couch scheme. The elder Brooks killed himself in 2011, his body found with a plastic bag over his head in his Manhattan apartment.
Cachay was the daughter of Peru-born parents and grew up with her brother near Arlington, Va. Her father was a physician. She studied fashion in college and worked as a designer for Marc Jacobs, Victoria's Secret and Tommy Hilfiger before she opened her own swimsuit line, Syla, in 2006. But the line struggled during the recession, and closed two years later.
Fogelman and others said the couple seemed mismatched and not only because of the nine-year age difference. Cachay was vibrant, outgoing. Brooks was brooding and often unfriendly, her friends testified. But he could also be deeply romantic, penning a sincere love letter to the designer after she threatened to break up with him.