By Shayna Jacobs and Nicole Bode
DNAinfo Senior Editor
MANHATTAN — Disgraced songwriter Joseph Brooks, who was awaiting criminal trial on charges he sexually assaulted a string of young women he lured to his Upper East Side apartment under the guise of holding auditions, has been found dead after an apparent suicide.
Brooks, 73, was found inside his East 63rd Street apartment Sunday with a plastic dry cleaning bag around his head and a towel around his neck, the AP reported. A hose connected to a helium tank was found beside him, as was a suicide note, according to reports.
The exact cause of death has not been determined pending an autopsy expected to take place Monday, a spokeswoman for the Office of the City's Medical Examiner said.
Police said they found Brooks unconscious inside his apartment at 130 E 63rd St. at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the same apartment where prosecutors said he lured dozens of women using online ads with promises to audition them for an upcoming movie. Police said there was no criminality suspected in his death, and he was pronounced dead on the scene. He was discovered by a friend who arrived at the apartment for a scheduled lunch with Brooks, according to reports.
The District Attorney's office did not have a comment on the matter. Brooks' lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
Tenants of Brooks' building greeted news of his death with mixed reactions Sunday.
Neighbor Elizabeth Zoch, 75, who lives several floors below Brooks' apartment, said she'd seen him in the building for two decades and tended to steer clear in recent years.
"The last two times I saw him, he looked like the walking dead. He looked depressed," said Zoch, a psychoanalyst. "He just didn't look like he wanted to live."
"Nothing about this (suicide) surprised me," she added. "It was more shocking that he was in my building. I would never ride in the elevator with him. He gave off bad vibes. People were uncomfortable around him."
"This is a sad thing for everybody," Zoch said.
Other neighbors said they had seen Brooks looking dapper in a pinstriped suit as recently as several weeks ago, and that he had been visited by a bevy of attractive women while recovering from a stroke last year, despite the ongoing criminal allegations filed against him in 2009.
Brooks was the Oscar- and Grammy-winning songwriter responsible for the 1977 hit song "You Light up My Life" but his life had taken a more sordid turn in recent years, marked by the dozen women who came forward to accuse him of sexual abuse in recent years, followed by the murder charges lodged by prosecutors last December against his son, Nicholas Brooks. Both Brooks have pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against them.
The younger Brooks, 24, allegedly murdered rising fashion designer Sylvie Cachay in their room at the SoHo House after she tried to end their troubled relationship, prosecutors said.
with Gabriela Resto-Montero