NEW YORK (AP) — An Oscar-winning composer's son was sentenced Monday to at least a quarter-century in prison in the death of his fashion designer girlfriend, capping a saga of a one-hit-wonder father and an aimless son both accused of seriously abusing women.
As Nicholas Brooks was given the maximum 25-year-to-life sentence for his conviction in the murder of Sylvie Cachay, there was no way his father could have been there to see him. Joseph Brooks, who wrote the 1970s touchstone song "You Light Up My Life," killed himself in 2011, while he was fighting charges of raping or molesting 13 would-be actresses.
The younger Brooks, 27, and Cachay had a tumultuous six-month relationship, bolstered by obvious affection but hampered by differences in age, attitude and ambition, according to trial testimony.
The liaison was laced with Brooks' jealousy and violence, prosecutors said; police once were summoned after he allegedly slammed Cachay's head into a wall, though no charges were filed. Prosecutors said Brooks ultimately strangled Cachay because she was dumping him.
Brooks' lawyer argued Cachay's December 2010 death was an accident, and Brooks told a court Tuesday it was "the most devastating thing that has ever occurred in my life.
"I think about her every day, and it breaks my heart. I loved her very much, and not a moment goes by where I do not miss her," said Brooks, who plans to appeal.
But Cachay's relatives lashed out at Brooks: "a cowardly liar, a parasite to our society, an abuser of women and a repulsive murderer," said one of her brothers, Patrick Orlando. Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Bonnie Wittner said Brooks squandered his education and privilege.
When Cachay met Brooks, he was a college dropout working odd jobs and living largely off a trust fund from his father. The elder Brooks largely raised him after a custody fight, said their mutual lawyer, Jeffrey Hoffman.
Cachay, 33, had worked as a designer for Marc Jacobs, Victoria's Secret and Tommy Hilfiger and had her own swimsuit line.
The duo checked into the Soho House hotel after a small fire in Cachay's apartment. A surveillance camera showed the two wobbling into their room, then Nicholas Brooks leaving and returning several times, at one point appearing frantic, before taking off for hours.
Cachay's partially clothed body was discovered in an overflowing bathtub. Medical examiners ruled she was forcibly drowned and strangled.
"Couples break up every day without one ending up in a gurney inside the coroner's office. He just had to walk away. That's all he had to do," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joel Seidemann said.
Hoffman argued Cachay drowned accidentally, passing out from an overdose of alcohol and prescription drugs used to treat migraines and fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes widespread pain.
Brooks wanted to spend his future with Cachay, and "it was the first time in this man's life that he had ever had that depth of feeling for anyone and from anyone," Hoffman said.
Joseph Brooks won the Academy Award for best original song in 1977 for "You Light Up My Life," sung by Debby Boone. Brooks wrote and directed the romantic comedy of the same name, but then his career foundered.
Prosecutors said the songwriter lured the women to his Manhattan apartment through an online ad offering movie auditions, then sexually assaulted them after making them drink apparently drugged wine for an "acting exercise." He pleaded not guilty.
Four days after his suicide at 73, his former assistant pleaded guilty to criminal facilitation, saying she helped him meet 10 of the women.