Oxygen Insider Exclusive!

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up for Free to View
Crime News

How Swimsuit Designer Sylvie Cachay's Life Was Cut Short By Son Of Disgraced Songwriter

Sylvie Cachay was found dead in an overflowing bathtub at Manhattan's exlusive Soho House in 2010. Her boyfriend, Nicholas Brooks, would ultimately be convicted of her murder.

By Gina Tron
Sylvie Cachay Promo

In the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 2010 the staff of the exclusive Manhattan club, the Soho House, opened the door of Room 20, responding to reports that the ceiling in the room below was leaking. There they discovered 33-year-old Sylvie Cachay, her body submerged in an overflowing bathtub. She was still wearing a shirt and underwear and had bruises and choking marks on her neck. First responders pronounced her dead on the scene. 

Cachay grew up in Virginia, a Peruvian American with dual citizenship in both countries. Even as a teenager, she was passionate about fashion, and attended Marymount College where she received a degree in fashion design. Her star rose quickly in the industry: she worked at Marc Jacobs and Tommy Hilfiger before becoming the lead swimsuit designer at Victoria’s Secret. In 2006, she secured funding to start her own line of swimsuits, called Syla. When the first collection was unveiled at a runway show in Miami, it was declared an “instant hit.” Her swimsuits were featured in various magazines including Elle, Vogue and Sports Illustrated, but now, just two years after her successful debut, she was dead.

Sylvie Cachay Spotlight Only G 5

There were many questions: How had this happened? Why? And, most pressingly, where was Cachay's boyfriend, 24-year-old Nicholas Brooks, who had checked into Room 20 of the Soho House with her just hours before? 

Brooks and Cachay had been dating for five months when they checked into the Soho House that night. The two had bonded quickly — on their first date, one of her beloved dogs, walking with the couple off-leash, was run over by a car. Brooks grabbed the dog and rushed them all into a cab, but Cachay's beloved pet died from his injuries hours later. Brooks had been a savior that first night, and Cachay, who had suffered a series of career and personal setbacks in the months before meeting Brooks, seemed to want a savior.

Shortly after the successful debut of her swimwear in 2009, as the economy bottomed out, Cachay's investors pulled out of their deal and she lost her funding. She took a job designing for Ann Cole, but craved more success. She joined the Soho House, the exclusive club in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan where she would eventually die, in order to network and continue to expand her career.

And Brooks was not the savior Cachay was looking for. In fact, one of Cachay’s friends claimed it was the most rocky romantic relationship of the fashion designer’s life. Not long before her death, she asked him via letter to treat her better, get a job, and quit drinking and the pair were known for their on-again-off-again nature. In an email cited by CBS News, she accused him of cheating on her after she supported him financially and emotionally; she also threatened to call the cops on him for stealing money from her.

Brooks' life, while privileged financially, was complicated and troubled. His father was Joseph Brooks, an Oscar-winning composer best known for writing the 1977 song "You Light up My Life." That fame turned to infamy later in life, however. In 2009, the then-71-year-old was arrested on more than 100 counts of sexual misconduct. Prosecutors said he sexually assaulted 13 women, mostly aspiring actresses he lured to his home with promises of movie roles. The New York Times reported that he allegedly "incapacitated them" before the assaults, and then threatened to ruin their careers if they reported him. Law enforcement suspected he'd been assaulting women since the 1970's but the statute of limitations had run up on many of the older claims against him. 

Joseph Brooks Spotlight Only G 2

In 1978, Joseph Brooks married Susan Paul, an actress. The couple had two children: Amanda in 1981 and Nicholas in 1986. New York Magazine reported in 2011 that Beach tried to leave her husband many times before eventually filing for divorce in England in the early nineties. She won custody of both children, but during court-mandated visitation, Joseph Brooks refused to return the children to England. Amanda flew back alone to England, but Nicholas stayed with his father in New York, and didn't speak to his sister or mother for over a decade. 

Nicholas Brooks attended Horace Mann, an expensive private school in New York City, but his relationship with his father was strained. At the end of Nicholas' junior year in high school, his father rented the teenager his own apartment. 

"The apartment was stocked with plates and silverware," reported New York Magazine,"but because Nick didn’t like cleaning, he just threw them away when they got dirty." The apartment soon became a destination for high school parties, where, as one friend noted, "all accountability was lost."

Nicholas Brooks Spotlight Only G 4

Indeed, as an adult, while Nicholas Brooks easily attracted the attention of women, he seemed to take little accountability for how his actions affected his partner. When Cachay discovered that Brooks had been taking money from her bank account, allegedly to pay for sex workers, she was furious. She repeatedly told friends that she was going to break up with him. On the night Cachay died, neighbors in her West Village apartment reported hearing the couple fight. Later, a small fire broke out, and they checked into the Soho House. Cachay wasn't shy about sharing her frustration. “He’s a stoner,” she reportedly told the front-desk clerk, according to police. “He’s always stoned. Who puts candles behind the bed?”

The Soho House concierge reportedly heard them continue arguing as they walked off to their room, Room #20.

Soho House Spotlight Only G 9

By 2:11 a.m, on Dec. 9, occupants staying in a room below the couple reported a water leak, which ultimately led to the discovery of Cachay. Not long after, security footage captured Nicolas Brooks leaving the room. He then went out for drinks at the bar Employees Only and returned back to the Soho House around 5:30 am where he feigned surprise upon seeing the blocked-off crime scene. He was taken in for questioning and then arrested. As the police drove him to the court house for arraignment, he still seemed to lack the maturity to grasp the nature of what had happened. According to police reports cited by New York Magazine, he asked, “How long can I get for something like this?” and “How long have you been a cop? Have you ever shot someone?”

Less than a year after his son was arrested, Joseph was found dead in his Upper East Side apartment. His head had been wrapped in a plastic bag, which was connected to a helium tank. He left an apparent suicide note, in which he wrote that he believed he would have been exonerated of the sexual assault allegations; he did not mention his son.

In 2013, Nicholas Brooks was convicted of the second-degree murder of Sylvie Cachay and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

At a sentencing hearing, Manhattan assistant district attorney Joel Seidemann, said “All he had to do was walk away. If he had walked away, Sylvie would be back with her family and friends, and he would be a free man.”