NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Nicholas Brooks was indicted on Tuesday in connection with the December death of ex-girlfriend and fashion designer Sylvie Cachay.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced that 24-year-old Brooks was indicted on one count of murder in the second degree. He pleaded not guilty.
About a dozen members of Cachay's family converged on a Manhattan court for Brooks' brief appearance Tuesday. Their family lawyer was quoted as saying seeing Brooks will be "a very difficult experience" for them.
"It was truly horrific and terrible to see this disgusting individual," said Cachay's brother Patrick Orlando. "She was a person that touched many many people very kind, incredibly loving incredibly talented. She really was a shining star."
Brooks, 24, was jailed since he was first charged last month with attempted murder and strangulation. Medical examiners later ruled the 33-year-old swimsuit designer's cause of death "neck compression and drowning," calling the manner a homicide after toxicology tests ruled out that Cachay caused or aided in her own death, according to the District Attorney's office.
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Police collected evidence from Cachay's Greenwich Village apartment where neighbors claimed they heard the couple fighting on the night the Peruvian beauty was killed.
Brooks and Cachay had been dating for about six months, having what Brooks' attorney Jeffrey Hoffman called "an intense and sharing relationship.'' But the relationship was on the rocks, according to Cachay's family and an account of Brooks' statements to police that prosecutors filed Tuesday. A lawyer for Cachay's family says the designer was trying to break up with Brooks.
He acknowledged to detectives that they'd been arguing, saying she had been upset with him after finding out he had a history of hiring escorts and she hadn't been satisfied with an apology letter he'd written, the document shows.
But Brooks said "it was not a big deal,'' according to the document, filed by prosecutors. They have said an apologetic letter from Brooks found in Cachay's purse showed he hadn't accepted that their relationship was ending.
They had rented a movie together the evening of Dec. 8 and had sex before Brooks gave Cachay an unspecified medication and went to take a shower, according to the account of his statements. He told police he stepped out of the shower to find the bed on fire, apparently ignited by candles by the headboard, with Cachay sleeping in it.
Brooks said he smothered the fire, which had burned some of Cachay's hair, and they decided to go to the Soho House, the document said. He told police she fell repeatedly and stumbled into the hotel, so ``pilled out'' that Brooks checked in while a hotel staffer helped her up to the room at about 12:30 a.m. Dec. 9.
He was in and out of the room, drinking and snacking for a time in the hotel lounge, while she lay in bed, at one point telling him she planned to take a bath to wash her hair, according to the account of his statements. He ultimately woke her up to tell her he was going out, then left for a bar with a man he met in the hotel lobby, he told police.
After he and the other man spent some time drinking and using cocaine, Brooks returned to find police at the hotel responding to Cachay's death, according to his statement.
The staff there discovered her body submerged in a bathtub with red marks around her neck and a bite mark on her hand.
Brooks' lawyer Hoffman said Cachay was "absolutely fine" when Brooks last saw her and plans to have his client plead not guilty. "How's he doing? Not doing well. He's in shock. Somebody he cared a great deal for and had an intense relationship is dead," Hoffman said.
Hoffman also added that they plan to do their own review.
"We haven't seen the evidence. We haven't tested the evidence," Hoffman said.
Brooks told police that Cachay was woozy from medication and that he had nothing to do with the bath, but in the police car he asked detectives "How long can I get for something like this?"
Murder in the second degree is a class a felony, which is punishable by up to 25 years to life in prison.
Ten of Cachay's relatives were in the courtroom with Attorney Susan Carton, who represents their interests.
"We hope and pray that there's justice in this case, that there isn't the kind of trashing by a defense attorney here of Sylvie's character because she was a wonderful human being who was kind and generous and let someone like Nicholas Brooks into her life, and when she realized that he was a toxic, parasitic person she tried to be rid of him," Carton said.
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