NEW YORK (AP) — A male model who had recently been a contestant on a Portuguese reality TV show was taken into police custody hours after his companion, a celebrity Portuguese television journalist, was found castrated and bludgeoned to death in a New York City hotel.
The journalist, 65-year-old Carlos Castro, had arrived in the U.S. in late December in the company of his young boyfriend, the model Renato Seabra, to see some Broadway shows and spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square, according to a family friend.
There had been some friction between the two men toward the end of the trip, but nothing to suggest that anything horrible was about to happen, said the friend, Luis Pires, the editor of the Portuguese language newspaper Luso-Americano.
“I think that they were a little bit upset with each other, for jealousy reasons,” Pires told The Associated Press.
The couple saw the musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” and took in the movie “The Black Swan.” But when it was time to meet Pires’ daughter for dinner Friday night, Seabra suddenly emerged in the lobby of the InterContinental New York Times Square hotel acting strangely, Pires said.
“He told my daughter, ‘Carlos will never leave the hotel again,”‘ Pires said.
He said his daughter, distraught, fetched a hotel manager. Security guards opened the door to the room and found the body at about 7 p.m.
By then, Seabra had left the hotel but was detained by police hours later after he sought care at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, not far from the hotel. He was being evaluated Saturday at Bellevue Hospital Center, across town. No charges had been filed against Seabra as of Saturday afternoon, the New York Police Department said.
Police said the victim suffered serious head trauma. The medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death.
Seabra was a contestant last year on a Portuguese TV show called “A Procura Do Sonho,” or “Pursuit of a Dream,” which hunts for modeling talent.
He didn’t win the show but did get a modeling contract with an agency founded by fashion designer Fatima Lopes, who developed the show and was a judge on it.
Lopes expressed her shock to Portugal’s Correio da Manha’s newspaper on Sunday.
“He never talked about his private life, he was a quiet boy and perhaps the shyest of all contestants in ‘In Search of the Dream.’ He was very calm and polite, she said. “This whole thing seems surreal to me.”
Seabra had always been interested in fashion, he told the Independente de Cantanhede newspaper in September.
“I have entered this world, and I don’t want to leave it because I see I can be successful,” he said.
Castro, who also was a columnist in Portugal, was admired there for his bravery in coming out as a gay man and “revealing the feminine side of his personality,” said Rui Pedro Tendinha, a film critic who knew Castro.
He was a high-profile public figure as a TV personality, Tendinha said.
“The way he died is causing a big commotion in Portugal,” he said.
The organizer of Lisbon Fashion Week, Eduarda Abbondanza, said she knew Castro from his coverage of Fashion Week.
Abbondanza said that when she fell seriously ill, Castro “was always there for me, calling me every time, checking up on me.”
On a trip to Rome, Castro even bought Abbondanza a rosary that the pope had blessed. Abbondanza said that when she heard about Castro’s death, she took the rosary to a church to pray.
“I only wish I could have helped him the way he helped me,” Abbondanza said. “He had a huge heart. Only a human being with a heart like that could have done what he did for me.”
Designer Ana Salazar, considered a fashion pioneer in Portugal, recalled Castro’s role as one of the country’s first social columnists.
“I was both in his best- and worst-dressed lists in the ’80s,” she said.
She said she was shocked by his death.
“It’s like something out of a horror movie,” she added.
A guest at the InterContinental, Suzanne Divilly, 40, told the Daily News she heard the two men arguing in their room during the day Friday.
“There was a lot of noise, talking,” she said. “You could hear them arguing in the corridor and even in our room.”
Pires described Castro as having “kind of a Liberace style. Eccentric, but very well-known.” He said he had been on Portuguese TV since he was a teenager, had written several books and was friends with the former president of Portugal, Mario Soares.
The young model and older journalist had been dating each other for a few months, he said.
“My wife and my daughter were with him for the past three or four days,” Pires said. “My wife told me that he was a very nice kid. Very polite. I think this must have been a crime of the heart.”
“This was a 21-year-old kid, looking for fame. He (Carlos) probably saw him watching girls, or something.”
News of the murder rattled the town of Cantanhede, population 38,000, in the central Portuguese district of Coimbra, where Seabra was born and where his family lives.
His sister, Joana Seabra, is a doctor and chairwoman of the local political committee of the Social Democratic Youth of Cantanhede. Calls to her home and surgery went unanswered Sunday, and no one was picking up the phone at the number listed as belonging to the family where the suspect’s mother, Odilia Seabra is believed to live.
Seabra’s childhood friend Lurdes Silva told the local Diario de Coimbra newspaper in Sunday’s editions that she was stunned by the allegations.
“He entered the fashion world in the hope of changing his life. Dreams are easy at our age,” she said. “He was looking for a dream and found a nightmare” She said the two shared an interest in racing pigeons.
“The news has hit Cantanhede like a bomb,” Casas de Melo, an organizer of the Cantanhede racing pigeon association. He told Diario de Coimbra Seabra was “a spectacular young man.
The death is the second recent slaying in an upscale New York City hotel room.
Swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay, 33, was found strangled and drowned in a bathtub at the trendy Soho House hotel on Dec. 9.
Her boyfriend Nicholas Brooks has pleaded not guilty in her death.
Brooks, the 24-year-old son of “You Light Up My Life” writer and Oscar winner Joseph Brooks, has been held without bail since his arrest.
And in February last year, prosecutors say multimillionaire Gigi Jordan killed her 8-year-old autistic boy at the the posh Peninsula Hotel. Jordan pleaded not guilty to murder. She wrote a letter saying she planned to kill herself and her son, but prosecutors have said she may have faked the suicide attempt. Her lawyer says the claim is baseless.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)