Songwriter dies before NYC trial on sex charges

May 23, 2011 - 3:13 AM
Songwriter Dead

FILE - In this June 23, 2009 file photo, Oscar-winning songwriter and director Joseph Brooks is shown in New York. Brooks was found dead Sunday, May 22, 2011, of an apparent suicide in his Manhattan apartment, police said. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The Academy Award-winning songwriter of "You Light Up My Life" was found dead of an apparent suicide while awaiting trial on charges of sexually assaulting more than a dozen women and just months after his son was accused of murdering a swimsuit designer.

Joseph Brooks, 73, was discovered Sunday afternoon on his living room couch with a plastic dry-cleaning bag around his head and a towel around his neck, police spokesman Paul Browne said. A hose attached to a helium tank was hooked up to the bag, and the door to Brooks' Upper East Side apartment was ajar, he said.

The medical examiner will perform an autopsy to determine Brooks' cause of death. A three-page suicide note included complaints about his health, police said.

Brooks suffered a stroke in 2008, and his lawyer had said the songwriter's health was deteriorating during the court case. He appeared gaunt and shuffled slowly as he came to recent court dates.

Brooks was awaiting trial on allegations that he lured women to his apartment through an online ad offering auditions for a movie role, then sexually assaulted them after making them drink apparently drugged wine as part of an "acting exercise." He pleaded not guilty in 2009, and his court date had not yet been set.

Brooks' lawyer and Manhattan prosecutors had no immediate comment about Brooks' death.

Brooks won the Academy Award for best original song for the 1977 Debby Boone ballad "You Light Up My Life" and directed a movie of the same name about a comedian who had a one-night stand with a director. Brooks also won a Grammy for the song.

Brooks' son, Nicholas, is charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend, Peruvian-American swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay. She was found dead, half-clothed and face-up, in a tub at the swanky Soho House after water began leaking through to the floor below.

The 24-year-old Brooks had little contact with his father in recent years, authorities have said.

Nicholas Brooks has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail at the Rikers Island jail complex.

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Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.