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Designer dead at NYC hotel, composer's son grilled

The Associated Press, Thursday, December 9, 2010, 3:18pm (PST)

NEW YORK (AP) -- A fashion designer was found dead Thursday in an overflowing bathtub in a swank hotel room, and her boyfriend — the son of an Academy Award-winning songwriter — was being questioned by police, a law enforcement official said.

Sylvie Cachay, 33, was found in a Soho House room after police received a call from the Manhattan hotel at about 3 a.m., police said. Water had been leaking from a ceiling, and hotel staff went to the floor above, where they found Cachay, dressed in a sweater and underwear, submerged in the tub.

Cachay's boyfriend, Nicholas Brooks, the 24-year-old son of "You Light Up My Life" songwriter Joseph Brooks, was seen leaving the hotel earlier and returned at about 3:30 a.m. to find police there, the law enforcement official said. In an unrelated case, the father is fighting charges that accuse him of molesting would-be actresses in his Manhattan apartment.

The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly about a person not arrested for a crime and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Prescription drugs were found in the hotel room, but the pills were in the bottle, and the woman had some small red marks on her neck, police said. The room was not in disarray, and no illegal drugs were found.

The medical examiner's office said an autopsy was completed Thursday but needed further study. Chief police spokesman Paul Browne said investigators were awaiting results.

The younger Brooks had not been charged with any crime. Police said he was speaking to investigators without an attorney earlier in the day, and it was unclear if he had retained a lawyer.

Cachay had been dating Brooks for around six months, said her friend and former publicist, who didn't know their relationship well and said she didn't think the designer had a drug or alcohol problem.

Cachay created a women's swimsuit collection called Syla using high-end fabrics and bright, bold patterns and colors. The suits retailed for $200 to $400 each, but she lost her backing and had to fold after the economy collapsed, according to her former publicist Kate Godici.

"When she launched Syla ... she was the new starlet of swim," Godici said. "Ana Wintour ordered her suits and her towels. She was in every magazine ... in Elle, in Vogue. She was loved for her talent."

Cachay had been designing at Ann Cole in the meantime. Cachay, who was Peruvian, had an older brother, and her parents were in Peru, Godici said.

She grew up with dual citizenship, splitting her time between Peru and Virginia. She graduated from Marymount College with a degree in design. Before she started her own company, 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.

"I'm so proud to be making this dream come to fruition," she said when her line debuted.

The Soho House, which contains a hotel and a private club, is located on Manhattan's West side in a neighborhood frequented by stars and the city's elite, near chic restaurants like Spice Market and Pastis. Its website says it has 24 rooms that offer guests "a unique combination of luxury and style" and that card-carrying members have to be verified at the front desk.

The unassuming tan brick building has no sign advertising the hotel's existence, but the rich and famous flock to the lush interior. Countless fancy parties have brought many celebrities through the doors. Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman, Liev Schreiber and soccer star David Beckham and his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, have stayed there. The ladies of "Sex and the City" filmed an episode at its rooftop pool.

Cachay was a member, which meant she could use the pool and got discounts on rooms, police said.

On Thursday afternoon, the street was quiet as a few crime scene investigators went in and out of the building. Holiday shoppers milled nearby at upscale boutiques glittering with red and green tinsel.

The elder Brooks, 72, has been accused of raping 11 women he lured to his apartment with the promise of a starring role in a movie. He has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges and is free on bail.

He won the Oscar for Best Original Song for the 1977 ballad "You Light Up My Life." He also wrote and directed the movie "You Light Up My Life," about a comedian who has a one-night stand with a director.

His attorney had no comment Thursday.

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