Sylvie Cachay, McLean fashion designer, found dead in NYC hotel: Boyfriend charged

Nicholas Brooks, center, has been charged with attempted murder and strangulation, pending a determination of the cause of death by the medical examiner. (Photo: WABC)

Update 8:10 p.m.: Nicholas Brooks has been charged, so far, only with attempted murder, not first-degree murder.

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Sources tell ABC News that authorities believe he contributed to her death, but can't charge him with murder until the medical examiner's office has ruled that it was murder.

The cause of death is pending further tests.

According to the sources, the bruises around Sylvie Cachay's neck were caused by Brooks strangling her, so he was charged with second-degree strangulation.

New York State law defines strangulation: "A person is guilty of strangulation in the second degree when he or she commits the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation. and thereby causes stupor, loss of consciousness for any period of time, or any other physical injury or impairment."

Brooks could be arraigned later tonight, but the sources believe it probably will be tomorrow morning.

UPDATE 7:32 p.m.: Nicholas Brooks has been charged in the death of his girlfriend, Sylvie Cachay, a fashion designer originally from McLean, Va., WABC-TV reports.

Brooks, 24, was charged after investigators obtained a warrant to search his body for evidence of a struggle.

Cachay's partially clothed body was found submerged in a bathtub at a SoHo hotel about 3:30 a.m. Thursday. A medical examiner determined she had been strangled, WABC-TV reported.

UPDATE 6:10 p.m.: Authorities have detained the ex-boyfriend of a New York city fashion designer from McLean who was found dead in the bathtub of an exclusive hotel.

Sylvie Cachay's mother spoke to ABC7's Gail Pennybacker Friday about her daughter's death.

"We are destroyed," said Sylvia Cachay. "She had a future, she had so much future."

Sylvia Cachay says she collapsed at the news her daughter had been found partially clothed and submerged in a SoHo hotel bathtub.

Cachay's former boyfriend, 24-year-old Nicholas Brooks, is being questioned in the case, but has not been charged or declared a suspect. Police obtained a warrant to search Brooks, including taking swabs and samples from Brooks' fingernails. Police would also look for any possible signs of struggle or trauma, chief NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told The Associated Press.

Sylvia says her daughter never mentioned being afraid of Brooks, but did recently tell him that he didn't meet her standards in a boyfriend.

"She was with him," Sylvia said. "She was a strong girl, I don't know what, she couldn't push him."

Cachay grew up in McLean and graduated from the Madeira School before attending Marymount University, where she earned a degree in design.

Cachay interned for designer Marc Jacobs, and then worked for Tommy Hilfiger and Victoria's Secret before starting her own swimsuit line.

The 33-year-old's former professor tells ABC7 that Cachay was vivacious and dedicated.

"We were very proud of her and all of the faculty are greatly saddened at her loss," said Janice Ellwood. "It's like a brilliant light being snuffed out."

Cachay's body was found in a bathtub in the exclusive SoHo House, where she had a membership allowing her to rent rooms at a discount. She had red marks around her neck and a bite mark on her hand, police said. A bottle of prescription medication was found nearby, but no illegal drugs, police said.

An preliminary autopsy failed to pinpoint the cause of death, and the medical examiner was awaiting a toxicology report, which can take days.

Cachay's nearby apartment had been the scene of a small fire recently, possibly leading her to stay at the hotel, The Associated Press reported.

"SoHo House is full of celebrities, has very prominent NYC membership and it's very exclusive," said New York Magazine Senior Editor Chris Rovzar. "So, of course, when a fashion designer is found dead in a hotel room here it's going to raise eyebrows."

Brooks and Cachay had dated for about six months before recently breaking up, Sylvia Cachay said. He reportedly told police the two checked in to the hotel together but he had run into a friend in the lobby and left to have drinks with him. Surveillance video shows him leaving the hotel and returning.

The couple had reportedly been having troubles.

"One friend said it was a really tumultuous relationship," Rovzar said.

Brooks has not been charged, but remains in custody while police seek a warrant to search his person for possible evidence of a struggle.

Brooks' father, Joseph Brooks, won an Oscar for writing "You Light Up My Life" in 1977. He was indicted last year on more than 80 sex-related charges for allegedly sexually assaulting young actresses he invited to his apartment with the promise of a film role.

ORIGINAL STORY: It’s a murder mystery that stretches from McLean to Manhattan.

Police say they found 33-year-old Sylvie Cachay dead in an overflowing bathtub at the Soho House, just hours after she broke up with her boyfriend - the son of an Oscar-winning composer.

Police say around 3 a.m. Thursday, hotel guests called the front desk to complain about water dripping into their room. Soon after, police discovered Sylvie Cachay’s body in the bathtub of her hotel room.

Now neighbors at her West Village apartment building are shocked.

“She was very polite girl, she actually liked my daughter,” a neighbor said. “Overall she was a very nice girl. Nice dress, nice and polite.”

Investigators say there was no one else in the room and prescription drugs were present. They also say she had visible bruises and possible bite marks on her neck, but police are unsure if that had anything to do with her death. 

The person who paid for the room was Cachay’s boyfriend, 26-year-old Nicholas Brooks, who is now being questioned by police. Brooks is the son of a famous Los Angeles composer Joseph Brooks, who is best known for writing the 1977 song “You Light Up My Life.”

In an unrelated case, the senior Brooks is fighting charges that accuse him of molesting a would-be actress in his Manhattan apartment.

The medical examiner’s office said an autopsy was completed Thursday, but needed further study.

Meanwhile, police are reviewing security camera footage from the hotel.

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