An Academy Award-winning songwriter's son has been convicted of murdering his swimsuit designer girlfriend in the Soho House Hotel.
A jury found Nicholas Brooks guilty of second-degree murder in the Dec. 9, 2010 death of Sylvie Cachay.
The verdict was issued Thursday as friends of the victim cheered in court. Brooks' sister was seen weeping.
"Today justice was done, but the pain is immense, and it will never go away," Cachay's mother, Sylvia Cachay, said in Spanish. "But she had a precious spirit, and that will live on. She's with me always. She was with me in the courtroom, and she is with me now."
The 33-year-old Cachay was found dead in an overflowing bathtub at the hotel. Medical examiners said she was strangled and drowned.
Police arrested Brooks, who had checked into the hotel with Cachay.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Hoffman argued 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 suspect in the high-profile killing.
He said during closing arguments this week that Cachay, 33, was "under the influence of drugs, partially clothed, to say the least not in a rational state" when she got into the tub. Outside court Thursday, he said he was "very disappointed" and would appeal.
Prosecutors sought to show that Brooks, then 24, strangled Cachay because she was breaking up with him. The medical examiner ruled that forcible drowning and strangulation caused her death, in part because of bruising on her neck and burst blood vessels in and around her eyes.
Assistant District Attorney Joel Seidemann said there was obvious tenderness between Brooks and Cachay but their relationship was made up of extreme highs and lows — and Brooks killed her in a low.
"When he held her neck and dunked her underwater ... that was the defining moment," he said during closings.
Jurors deliberated over three days, requesting nearly every piece of evidence in the trial, and haggling over suggestions Hoffman made linking the possibility of Cachay's death to some type of rough sex, even though the judge refused to allow specific testimony on the topic at the five-weeklong trial.
Outside court, one juror said he felt the case was unfair. Hoffman said several jurors teared up during the verdict.
"I could see the frustration on their faces," he said.
Cachacy's parents said the verdict would send a message to women around the world who are abused — they can and should get help.
"She was a beautiful girl, and she fell into a relationship and she was abused," Cachay's mother said.
Brooks and Cachay were introduced by a friend in 2010 but were constantly on-again, off-again. Cachay didn't like that they would drink too much together, her friends testified. She wanted Brooks to get a job and be more proactive about the relationship.
On the night of Cachay's death, Nicholas Brooks knocked over a candle and started a small fire at her apartment, burning her hair. So they went to the Soho House, an exclusive Manhattan hotel and club that cost $1,800 a year and upward for a membership. Surveillance footage shows them checking in at 12:31 a.m. Brooks is then seen pacing the hallway, then going down to the lobby and returning several times before he puts on a coat and leaves at 2:18 a.m.
Cachay's body was discovered by hotel staff at 3 a.m.
Brooks was a college dropout who worked odd jobs, and prosecutors said he had a penchant for escorts and marijuana. He is the son of Oscar-winning composer Joseph Brooks, who wrote the song "You Light Up My Life." He had been charged in an unrelated case with numerous counts of sexual assault stemming from accusations that he attacked young women after luring them to his apartment with promises of acting jobs, but died in May 2011.
Cachay grew up with dual citizenship, splitting her time between Peru and Virginia. She graduated from Marymount College with a degree in design.
She interned at Marc Jacobs and worked for Tommy Hilfiger and Victoria's Secret. She left the lingerie empire in 2006 to start her own collection, but had been working at fashion houses again after the economy tanked and she lost her backing. Her former publicist called her the "darling of the swimsuit world."
Sentencing for Brooks was scheduled for July 26. He faces 25 years to life.