NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) –Police have arrested and charged the former boyfriend of fashion designer Sylvie Cachay with attempted murder and strangulation in her death.
Investigators had earlier obtained a search warrant to examine 24-year-old Nicholas Brooks in the death of Cachay, who was found in a bathtub at the Soho House hotel around 3 a.m. Thursday morning.
According to a release by police Friday evening, the Medical Examiner has ruled the death a homicide.
Published reports quoted sources saying charges could still be upgraded.
Brooks has been at a police precinct more than a day and was cooperating with investigators, who obtained the warrant to take swabs from under his fingernails.
The 33-year-old Cachay, wearing a black top and underwear, was found submerged in the oval tub, face up, after hotel staff noticed the ceiling below her room was leaking. She had red marks around her neck and a bite mark on her hand, investigators said.
A bottle of prescription pills was found in the room, but no illegal drugs were found.
Before the body was found, Brooks was seen leaving the hotel, then returning and leaving again. According to police, he told investigators he ran into a friend at the lobby, and the two left to get drinks. He returned around 3:30 a.m. to find police in the room.
“It was mysterious that she was found with her clothes on in the bath tub,” said Eric Spilker of Manhattan.
The private club was an unlikely location for a possible homicide investigation to some.
“I’m kind of shocked. I would imagine a place like that would have a fair amount of internal security monitoring,” said John Murphy of Manhattan.
“It’s just too exclusive, well-respected, and a meeting place of the who’s who,” said Laura Levitana of Atlanta.
At the home of Cachay’s parents in McLean, Virgina, the woman’s family was gathering in support and mourning on Friday.
“They are devastated, it’s their baby. It’s my uncle’s baby. This is his little girl. This is everything he lived for — he’s devastated and angry,” Cachay’s cousin Francoise Jakobsson said.
Jakobsson also said the family believed Brooks was connected to Cachay’s death.
“We’re all thinking that he was responsible right now for her death,” Jakobsson said.
Cachay and Brooks had been dating about six months, and investigators said some of her friends told them he was erratic. The two started dating after Sylvie’s poodle was struck by a car and killed, said her mother, Sylvia Cachay of McLean, Va., outside Washington.
“He helped her through all this process, and they became boyfriend and girlfriend,” she told WTTG-TV, a local Fox affiliate. “Sylvie always had this idea of helping people, and I think this boy needed help in directing his life.”
But on a family vacation in Cancun just two weeks ago, Sylvie told her mother the relationship was over.
“She told me, ‘Mommy, we are just friends right now. He’s trying, but I told him that I don’t want to have a serious relationship or consider marriage if he does not change,’” the mother said.
“My heart is just broken,” she said.
One of Cachay’s neighbors told CBS 2 after a fire broke out in the fashion designer’s Greenwich Village apartment Wednesday, she heard the couple arguing.
That was just hours before Cachay and Brooks left for the Soho House, where she had a membership to the exclusive club frequented by celebrities. The hotel has hosted stars like Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts.
“It sounded like somebody attacked her,” Judy, her neighbor, said. “I heard her talking very softly, and it sounded like she was almost whining or moaning.”
Browne said the small bedroom fire was sparked by a candle at her apartment and that may have led her to stay at the Soho House.
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.”