HOLLYWOOD, CA — The son of a California real estate tycoon has been found guilty of the gruesome torture and murder of his Ukrainian fiancée, who had given birth to his daughter just three weeks earlier.
Blake Leibel, a millionaire property heir and aspiring graphic novelist, tortured and mutilated Iana Kasian, 30, inside his West Hollywood apartment. Leibel, 37, drained all the blood from his fiancée’s body and removed her scalp, according to ABC.
On the surface, the couple appeared to be living a charmed life. Leibel grew up in a world of extreme privilege and wealth: His father, Lorne, was the president of Canada Homes, a company that was once described as the nation’s largest home builder. His mother, Eleanor Chitel, was the heiress to a plastics fortune.
But in recent years, friends said that Leibel, who had two children with his ex-wife, began exhibiting bizarre behavior — including walking out on his wife when she was pregnant, and cutting off old friends.
In May 2016, after being alerted by Kasian’s concerned mother, Olga Kasian, police broke into Leibel’s apartment and found the victim’s naked body covered with a red Mickey Mouse blanket, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Kasian’s autopsy report says parts of the right side of her face were torn off during the attack. Investigators found parts of Kasian’s scalp and her ear in a trash bin at the bottom of the garbage chute, NBC reported. The Los Angeles Department of the Medical Examiner ruled that the cause of death was exsanguination, the act of draining a person of blood.
Forensic experts would later conclude that Kasian had remained alive during the prolonged attack. The baby was reportedly unharmed.
During Leibel’s trial, graphic images of the crime scene were compared to images from a graphic novel that he helped create in 2010 called Syndrome. Prosecutors District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef and her cocounsel Deputy DA Beth Silverman argued that Leibel had been inspired by the novel during Kasian’s murder.
The book describes a scientist who attempts to find a way to cure people of evil. On one page, there is an image of a naked woman lying on a bed with no head. It begins with the foreword: “If you loved hurting things, what would you do?” and ends with the caption: “In the end, we all become monsters.”
Leibel’s attorney argued that while her client created “Syndrome,” he did not actually write the book. This was confirmed by industry insiders who said that Leibel paid other people to write and illustrate the novel, and that he only came up with the concept.
Prosecutors also claimed that Leibel was jealous that his fiancée’s sole focus turned to the couple’s newborn daughter.
Silverman told jurors that Leibel had used a sharp object as well as his bare hands to cut and rip pieces of Kasian’s scalp. She stated that Kasian died a “very slow, excruciating, painful death.”
The Hollywood Reporter reported in 2017 that coroner Jim Ribe testified that he had never seen these types of injuries during his career. “I doubt if any forensic pathologist in this country or abroad has ever seen this outside of, perhaps, wartime,” he said.
According to THR, Ribe said the only injuries he had seen that came anywhere close to this were two people who had been ripped apart by dogs.
Leibel had been found guilty of first-degree murder, torture, and aggravated mayhem. He will be sentenced on June 26, and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.