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Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Sylvie Cachay Bathtub Murder Case

     Sylvie Cachay grew up as the daughter of a Peruvian-born physician who practiced in Arlington, Virginia. She studied fashion design in New York City and worked for clothing designers Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfinger and Victoria's Secret. In 2006 Cachay started her own swimsuit line called Syla. She resided in a So Ho apartment in Manhattan's meatpacking district.

     Early in 2010 the 33-year-old swimwear designer met 24-year-old Nicholas Brooks, a college dropout and unemployed party-boy with a history of patronizing prostitutes, consuming large amounts of alcohol and smoking marijuana. Nicholas Brooks' father Joseph Brooks achieved a bit of fame by writing the 1970s hit song, "You Light Up My Life." The songwriter supported his son's party-boy lifestyle until 2009 when the elder Brooks was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting several women, most of whom were aspiring actresses. (In 2011 Joseph Brooks, facing the chance of a long stretch in prison, committed suicide.)

     Because of Nicholas Brooks' debauched lifestyle funded by Sylvie Cachay's credit cards, the couple had a turbulent relationship. They frequently broke up and then got back together again.

     On the morning of December 8, 2010 Sylvie Cachay sent Nicholas Brooks an email that read: "Nick, for the past six months I have supported you financially and emotionally. I am speaking with my credit card company and the police and I am going to tell them that I never allowed you to use my card. I don't care. Have fun in jail."

     Later on the day of Cachay's angry email the couple made up in her apartment. That night just after midnight the couple walked to the SoHo House, a luxury hotel not far from Cachay's dwelling. They checked into their room at 12:30 AM.

     Shortly after Cachay and Brooks checked in to the SoHo House a hotel employee heard a man and a woman arguing loudly in their room. Thirty minutes later Nicholas Brooks left the suite and was seen eating a steak in the hotel's dining room. Upon finishing his meal Brooks and a man who had come to the lobby to meet him left the hotel. A short time later they were having drinks at a nightclub called Employees Only.

     At three in the morning of December 9, 2010, about two and a half hours after Cachay and Brooks checked in to the SoHo House, a guest on the floor below complained to the front dest about water leaking through the ceiling. Hotel employees entered Cachay's room and found her dead in the overflowing bathtub. One of the stunned hotel employees called 911.

     New York City homicide detectives, when they arrived at the hotel found the swimsuit designer in the bathtub wearing a sweater and a pair of underwear. The officers didn't notice any signs of physical trauma on the dead woman's body. At five-thirty that morning while the death scene investigators were still in the hotel room Nicholas Brooks returned to the suite. He agreed to be questioned at a nearby NYPD precinct station.

     Brooks admitted to his questioners that he and his dead girlfriend had been arguing in the hotel room before he left to eat his steak. After that he and a friend went out for drinks at a nearby nightclub. He said that when he left the hotel room Sylvie was alive.

     Following the autopsy a forensic pathologist with the New York City Medical Examiner's Office ruled that Sylvie Cachay died of asphyxia due to strangulation and drowning. The manner of death in her case was ruled criminal homicide.

     New York City detectives arrested Nicholas Brooks on January 4, 2011 on the charge of first-degree murder. At his arraignment hearing the magistrate denied the murder suspect bail. Brooks entered a plea of not guilty.

     The Cachay-Brooks murder trial got underway in New York City on June 7, 2013. In his opening remarks to the jury the assistant district attorney laid out the prosecution's theory of the case: the unemployed playboy had been using the victim to fund his taste for prostitutes, alcohol, marijuana and expensive nights out on the town. When she threatened to cut him off and report him to the police he strangled or drowned her to death in the hotel bathtub.

     The New York City Medical Examiner's Office forensic pathologist took the stand early in the trial. According to the pathologist, "Bruises on the victim's neck, bleeding in her eyes and abrasions inside her mouth were injuries consistent with [homicidal] asphyxiation."

     Through several prosecution witnesses the assistant district attorney presented the jury with emails in which Sylvie Cachay complained to her friends about Brooks' drinking, drug use and late-night partying. In these emails she referred to the defendant as "the kid I'm dating," as her "man-boy" or as a "stoner" who had quit his job at a cupcake shop.

     The Brooks defense, through a forensic pathologist from Syosset, New York presented evidence that Cachay's death had been accidental. According to Dr. Gerard Catanese the victim had drowned in the tub because she had sedatives, anti-depressants and muscle relaxers in her system. "That combination of drugs," Dr. Catanese said, "could account for her falling asleep, losing consciousness and sinking under the water and ultimately dying."

     On July 11, 2013, the jury relying solely on circumstantial evidence found Nicholas Brooks guilty of first-degree murder. As the verdict was read friends of Sylvie Cachay in the courtroom cheered loudly. 
     The judge sentenced Nicholas Brooks to 25 years to life. Five years later an appellate court denied Brooks' appeal.


  1. Replies
    1. A drug overdose wouldn't cause the blood vessels in her eyes to burst, strangulation would

  2. I saw on 48 hours. People in a room below already were complaining about water leaking from the ceiling before Brooks left his and her room. If this is true that should remove all doubt about his guilt.

  3. Who wears underwear and a sweater in the bathtub???

  4. I read these lines and had a sinking feeling: "a college dropout and unemployed party-boy with a history of patronizing prostitutes, consuming large amounts of alcohol, and smoking marijuana." I missed my true vocation: detective.