Movie director and graphic novelist Blake Leibel convicted of first-degree murder in the death of the mother of his new born child
Blake, 37, who authored a gruesome graphic novel was found guilty of killing and mutilating a woman inside his West Hollywood apt in May 2016
Leibel was accused guilty of killing and desecrating the remains of his Ukrainian fiancée, Iana Kasian, in the home they shared
The millionaire property heir, reportedly tortured and mutilated Iana Kasian, a new mother, in a brutal and sadistic killing
He allegedly scalped 30-year-old Iana Kasian and drained her of blood before she eventually died
Kasian’s autopsy report says parts of the right side of her face, including her ear, were torn off in the brutal slaying – pieces of her scalp were found scattered around the apt
Kasian had given birth to their daughter just three weeks before her brutal murder
The suspect was guilty on all charges, including mayhem and torture
The suspect who is the son of a Toronto real estate tycoon is facing life in prison with no parole
Victim: Blake Leibel, who is the son of prominent Toronto developer Lorne Leibel, has been found guilty of murdering his fiancée Iana Kasian [photo]
The movie director son of a Toronto real estate tycoon has been found guilty of the gruesome and brutal murder of his Ukrainian fiancée, who had given birth to his daughter just weeks earlier.
Blake Leibel, a 37-year-old millionaire property heir, tortured and mutilated Iana Kasian inside his West Hollywood apartment before she died. He drained all the blood from her body and removed her scalp, ABC reported.
Kasian’s autopsy report says parts of the right side of the 30-year-old’s face, including her ear,- were torn off in the brutal slaying, before she died.
Two years after police found the director barricaded inside a West Hollywood apartment with his girlfriend’s mutilated and bloodless corpse, a jury on Wednesday convicted Blake Leibel of first-degree murder.
Convicted killer: Blake Leibel [left], Wednesday was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2016 depraved murder of his newly delivered fiancée, Iana Kasian
That verdict concludes one of the grimmest murder trials in recent memory. Late Wednesday morning a jury sitting Los Angeles jury of eight men and four women convicted director and graphic novelist Blake Leibel of first-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, Iana Kasian, in May 2016.
At the hearing Wednesday the courtroom packed with journalists, curious spectators and friends and family of both the victim and the accused, along with a few lawyers and staff, became quiet with anticipation as theverdict was handed down: “I understand youv’e reached a verdict,” said the judge, Mark Windham.
“We have,” said the foreperson.
Leibel was found guilty on all charges, including mayhem and torture.
Blake Leibel [left] seen with ex-wife Amanda Braun, reportedly murdered Kasian in his West Hollywood apt Flesh, an ear and her scalp were found scattered around his bedroom and in the bin at the bottom of a garbage chute at his home
Leibel’s ex-wife, a former model Amanda Braun, with whom the suspect shares two children, only entered the court on Wednesday after the verdict had been read, but neither of their children attended the proceedings.
After the verdict was read, Leibel left the courtroom without looking at his family or Braun.
Dressed in a blue blazer and crisp white shirt, standing to the left of his attorney, public defender Hayheh Takasugi, Leibel remained motionless, staring straight ahead.
The victim’s mother, a Ukrainian health care worker named Olga Kasian, broke into tears and clutched the hands of a friend sitting nearby.
It was Olga Kasian who prevailed on authorities to conduct the search for Iana who had just given birth to a daughter, Diana, three weeks earlier. That search would eventually lead to the discovery of her new mom’s mutilated body in a West Hollywood apartment.
Police discovered Iana’s body drained of all its blood and covered by a red Mickey Mouse blanket inside Leibel’s apartment.
Olga’s family and friends, many of whom had flown in from the Ukraine to offer support, surrounded her, translating and holding her close.
In addition to the first degree murder charge, the jury found Leibel guilty of torture and mayhem, both of which carry additional sentencing obligations, along with special circumstances of using a deadly weapon.
Police broke into the apt and found Iana’s body splayed out on the blood stained bed, Leibel lay beside the remains. Pieces of her flesh were found on the mattress and elsewhere in the home, including on a rug beneath his bed
When officers finally broke into Leibel’s apartment in May 2016, looking for Kasian, her naked body was found – mutilated, drained of blood, and covered with a red Mickey Mouse blanket, The Hollywood Reporter reported.
Investigators found bits of flesh inside the bedroom, and part of Kasian’s scalp and her ear were found in a trash bin at the bottom of the garbage chute outside the home, NBC reported.
The Los Angeles Department of the Medical Examiner ruled that the woman’s cause of death was exsanguination, the act of draining a person of blood.
Leibel, 37, had tried to keep police out of the apartment by barricading the door.
During Leibel’s trial, pathologists testified the horrific murder set a precedent in terms of the brutality and grisliness of Kasian’s injuries.
When Kasian’s body was found she was naked. Her blood had been drained, she’d been scalped, washed clean, then covered with a red Mickey Mouse blanket
Iana Kasian [photo] who had just given birth to a daughter three weeks earlier was found on May 26, 2016. She had been was tortured and mutilated before she was killed and her blood was drained from her body, prosecutors said
The trial strived to showcase the extremities of cruelty and depravity involved in the gruesome crime. The imagery was both horrific and macabre. – Pathologists testified that Kasian’s murder has already set a precedent in terms of the sheer barbarity on display, and the extent and brutality of her injuries.
Throughout the weeklong trial, prosecutor District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef and her co-counsel, Deputy DA Beth Silverman, displayed unusually graphic and disturbing crime-scene photographs to illustrate that Kasian’s murder, which included scalping and blood-draining on a victim who remained alive for much of the ordeal, was exceptionally, and even uniquely, horrific.
The prosecutors also highlighted the idea that Leibel had orchestrated the murder to mirror certain elements from the plot of Syndrome, a 2010 graphic novel he helped create that told the story of a scientist who experiments on a psychopathic killer to find a cure for evil. Success is elusive in this fictional world, however, and the book’s narrator concludes “in the end we all become monsters.”
Prosecutors said the crime pathology mirrored a scene inside Leibel’s novel where a hand is dripping with blood, alongside the caption: ‘In the end we ALL become monsters’
Silverman, toward the end of the trial, reminded jurors of the similarities between the fictional crime and the real one, and asserted that the novel was Leibel’s “blueprint.” The resulting real-world violence was so severe and extreme, Silverman said, that words “failed” to adequately describe what had occurred.
“This was depravity,” Silverman said, bluntly. “Ms. Kasian died a slow and painful death,” he said. “Her daughter will never know her, and that’s because of the unconscionable acts you heard about during this trial.”
The trial began with first-hand testimony from Olga Kasian, who speaks no English and used several court-appointed Russian language interpreters during testimony.
Compelling evidence: Blood stains are seen on the carpet of Leibel’s bedroom, one of the disturbing and damning graphic images taken at the crime scene and presented during the trial
The trial began with first-hand testimony from Olga Kasian, with the aid of court-appointed Russian language interpreters describing that she was distressed having not heard from her daughter for two days.
Olga went in search of Iana on May 24, 2016, after dozens of calls, texts and emails went unanswered. The day before, Iana had gone shopping for baby strollers. It was the last time Olga would see her daughter alive.
On another occasion, Olga went to the apartment by herself and stood across the street, screaming for Leibel to open the door. She testified that she saw him come to the window, only to close it and disappear inside.
When persistent non-English speaking Olga did finally manage to get the police interested, two officers tried to perform a welfare check on Iana at the apartment she had been sharing with Leibel on Holloway Drive in West Hollywood, but were denied entry.
Although Leibel and Iana were there at the time, phone records appeared to show police were unable to enter, the home. The detectives even tried a ruse to lure Leibel out, pretending to leave when in fact they were hiding in close range. But no one answered the door.
Police left, but Olga persisted and, on the 26th, she called 911. With the help of a friend, she managed to croak out a desperate plea: “Help,” she told the emergency operator. Police returned to the apartment and broke in, where they were met with a horror show.
Kasian was found naked and covered with a red Mickey Mouse blanket.
Police found Iana’s body inside her West Hollywood apartment [photo], after forcing their way in. The suspect had barricaded the front door with furniture and was inside at the time.
Graphic images of the scene and of Kasian were shown to the jury, as were images from a graphic novel called Syndrome, which Leibel helped to create in 2010.
In the novel, a scientist tries to find a way to cure people of evil. One page displays a woman, lying naked on a bed with no head.
The novel begins with the forward: ‘If you loved hurting things, what would you do?’ and ends with an image of a hand dripping blood and the caption: ‘In the end, we all become monsters’.
Prosecutors District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef and her co-counsel, Deputy DA Beth Silverman argued the 37-year-old had mirrored elements of the novel in Kasian’s murder, and that the book was the man’s ‘blueprint’.
Much of the prosecution’s case rested on what police and forensic experts ultimately pieced together from the apartment.
The testimony was largely composed of a wealth of forensic and physical evidence, all of which pointed to the suspect as the killer. A forensic pathologist explained how blood found throughout the apartment matched the victim, and how DNA found at the crime scene belonged to both Iana Kasian and Leibel. Blood evidence was collected from all over the apartment, and was even found in the kitchen drain pipe. Police found pieces of flesh from Kasian’s mutilated body in the bed, behind the mattress and on the floor. A bed sheet bore distinct handprints that matched Leibel’s hand exactly, and was easily discernible by the jury because Leibel happens to be missing a portion of his right pinky finger. In the basement, police found 11 discarded trash bags, many of which contained bloody sheets and clothes, body parts belonging to Kasian, and huge chunks of her hair and scalp. Finally, inside the apartment itself, police found Kasian’s corpse splayed out on the bed in the master bedroom, with Blake at her side. Prosecutors said there was some indication that he had been lying next to her body, which had been cleaned, for some time before police arrived. Police found a knife and a bloody razor blade that prosecutors said may have been used during the scalping.
Prosecutors provided text messages showing that Leibel had ordered food from PostMates on several occasions during the time when Kasian was dying, instructing the delivery service not to knock on the door, but to leave the food outside. “All the effort over the last two days, and he’s really worked up an appetite,” said Silverman. “He doesn’t want the delivery people to ring the bell, he doesn’t want to be interrupted.” In the hours before police broke down the door, Blake had called his accountant, Stephen Green, who rushed over to help. Video footage showed him racing through the lobby and entering the elevator. Green testified that when he arrived, he helped police try to coax Leibel out of the bedroom. At one point, Leibel asked Green to pass him some clothes from the living room. Green did so, but not before police had a chance to search them, whereupon they found a passport and $4,000 in cash, which Silverman later surmised might have been Leibel’s ready escape plan.
Life imitating art: Prosecutors showed the jury pictures of Kasian’s body as it was found in the bedroom [bedroom photo], and compared it to images from a graphic novel Leibel helped create in 2010
Silverman told the court there were no words to describe the depravity of Leibel’s actions and the extremity of the violence.
‘This was depravity. Ms. Kasian died a slow and painful death,’ she said.
“I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the question of why?” she said. “Why would a human being do anything close to this to a human being, and why do that to someone he supposedly loves, someone he just had a baby with?”
She conceded that motive was often difficult to discern, but offered clues as to what may have driven Leibel to such extremes. Power, jealousy and anger were likely at play, she said, suggesting that Leibel may have been jealous that Kasian’s attention had been diverted away from him and toward the newborn.
‘He threw away pieces of his fiancée like she was trash. The mother of his newborn baby.
‘Her daughter will never know her, and that’s because of the unconscionable acts you heard about during this trial.’ “What happened here is beyond anybody’s worst nightmare,” she said.
“This is the world where the defendant lives, where people’s lives have no value. Maybe he did think that no one would care that a young woman from the Ukraine went missing here in the U.S. She was butchered and thrown away like pieces of trash.”
Leibel had pleaded not guilty to murder, mayhem, aggravated mayhem and torture.
When the jury read out their sentence on Wednesday, Kasian’s mother, a Ukrainian.
health care worker named Olga, broke down in tears.
Leibel’s reaction was one of an unmoved man. He stared straight ahead and did not move.
He will be sentenced on June 26, and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Though he was earlier facing the death penalty, the LA County District Attorney’s Office had earlier opted not to seek it against him.
Leibel’s father, Lorne, made a fortune in the home building boom of the 1980s and 90s as the president of Canada Homes, once described as the nation’s largest home builder.
Lorne Leibel also sailed for Team Canada in the 1976 Olympics and has since raced both boats and vintage cars, according to the Toronto Star.
And his mother, Eleanor Leibel, was the daughter of Paul and Leona Chitel. The Chitel family founded Alros Products Ltd, a plastics company based in Toronto that does business as Polytarp, the National Post reported.