An Oscar-winning composer's son was sentenced Monday to 25 years to life in prison after being convicted of killing his fashion designer girlfriend in a swank hotel room.
Nicholas Brooks, 27, was convicted in July of murdering 33-year-old Sylvie Cachay in December 2010. He was arrested while his father, Joseph Brooks, who wrote the 1970s touchstone torch song “You Light Up My Life,” was himself facing criminal charges of mistreating women: allegations of raping or molesting 13 would-be actresses.
The younger Brooks and Cachay had a tumultuous six-month relationship, bolstered by obvious affection and mutual attraction but hampered by differences in age, attitude and ambition. Prosecutors said he strangled her because she was dumping him.
“The loss of Sylvie is the most devastating thing that has ever occurred in my life,” Brooks told a court Tuesday. “I think about her every day, and it breaks my heart. I loved her very much, and not a moment goes by where I do not miss her.”
But Cachay's relatives lashed out at Brooks as a craven killer – “a cowardly liar, a parasite to our society, an abuser of women and a repulsive murderer,” in the words of one of Cachay's brothers, Patrick Orlando. And Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Bonnie Wittner lambasted him as a young man who squandered his education and his privilege.
When the couple met, Brooks was a college dropout living largely off a trust fund from his father. The son had a penchant for hiring escorts and smoking marijuana, prosecutors said.
Cachay, on the other hand, had worked as a designer for Marc Jacobs, Victoria's Secret and Tommy Hilfiger and had her own swimsuit line.
The duo checked into the Soho House hotel after a small fire in Cachay's apartment. They are seen on a surveillance camera in the hotel's hallway wobbling into their room. Brooks comes and goes several times, at one point appearing frantic, before leaving for hours.
Cachay's partially clothed body was discovered in an overflowing bathtub after it began leaking into the room below. Medical examiners later ruled that she had been forcibly drowned and strangled.
“Couples break up every day without one ending up in a gurney inside the coroner's office. He just had to walk away. That's all he had to do,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joel Seidemann said.
Brooks' attorney, Jeffrey Hoffman, argued Cachay drowned accidentally, passing out from an overdose of alcohol and prescription drugs used to treat migraines and fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes widespread pain.
Joseph Brooks won the Academy Award for best original song in 1977 for “You Light Up My Life,” sung by Debby Boone. Brooks wrote and directed the romantic comedy of the same name.
The 73-year-old Brooks killed himself in his apartment 2011, while he prepared for his Manhattan trial and his son was in jail awaiting his own.
Prosecutors said the songwriter lured the women to his Manhattan apartment through an online ad offering auditions for a movie role, then sexually assaulted them after making them drink apparently drugged wine as part of an “acting exercise.”
He pleaded not guilty. But four days after his death, his former assistant pleaded guilty to criminal facilitation, admitting she had helped him meet 10 of the women.