On Tuesday, Blake Leibel—a 35-year-old graphic novelist, screenwriter, and son of wealthy Canadian real estate developer and former Olympian, Lorne Leibel—was charged in a Los Angeles courtroom with the torture and murder of his girlfriend and mother of his newborn child, Iana Kasian. Leibel pled not guilty to all of the charges.
Via the Washington Post: Police went to check on Kasian on May 26, after receiving a call from her mother, who was concerned after Kasian went to Leibel’s West Hollywood home on May 23 and never came home. The couple, whose first child arrived on May 3, had been living separately since May 20, when Leibel was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault of another woman. (He was soon released on $100,000 bail and has not been charged.)
Upon arriving at Leibel’s apartment, the district attorney’s office says that police found a door barricaded with home furniture and an “agitated and uncooperative” Leibel. Once inside, they found a torture scene:
Leibel is accused of murdering his 30-year-old girlfriend, Iana Kasian, on or between May 23 and May 26, at an apartment they shared in West Hollywood. Kasian was tortured and mutilated before she was killed and all of her blood was drained from her body, the prosecutor said.
Leibel—whose most successful work Syndrome is, according to him, “a lengthy graphic novel that grappled with the questions surrounding what provokes a person to commit evil acts”—is being charged with murder, torture, mayhem and aggravated mayhem. If found guilty, he may face the death penalty.
Leibel is still in the process of divorcing his estranged wife, Amanda Braun. Says his divorce attorney Ronald Richards, “Him being violent is so uncharacteristic of the person I’ve known for many years.”
Of his client’s relationship with relationship with Kasian, Richards adds, “It’s very rare that someone is involved in a homicide case with someone they just had a baby with. It’s very early to make a conclusion as to what the cause, intent, motive and facts were to this unfortunate tragedy.”
Kasian, who emigrated from Kyiv, Ukraine in 2014, is described by friends as “a very happy person [with a] strong and fighting character.” Before coming to the U.S., she studied law and tax inspection at a local college. Her mother—who was visiting L.A. to help with the baby—is currently caring for Kasian’s daughter.
The family, according to The National Post, is “raising money online to have Kasian’s body brought back to Ukraine and to fund what they expect will be an expensive custody battle.”
Image of Iana Kasian via ABC13