An artist and screenwriter from a prominent Canadian family was charged Tuesday with torturing, killing and draining the blood from the body of his girlfriend at their West Hollywood apartment.
Appearing in a Los Angeles courtroom, Blake Leibel, 35, pleaded not guilty to felony charges including murder, torture, mayhem and aggravated mayhem, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Leibel is accused of killing his 30-year-old girlfriend, Iana Kasian, sometime between May 23 and May 26 at the apartment in the 8500 block of Holloway Drive, prosecutors said.
Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies came to the apartment on May 26 on the request of Kasian’s mother, who asked them to perform a welfare check, Sheriff's Deputy Sara Rodriguez said.
Inside the flat, deputies found a grisly scene.
Before she was killed, Kasian had been tortured, her body mangled. “All of her blood was drained from her body,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.
Leibel had barricaded himself in the apartment, putting furniture and bedding to block the door, sheriff’s Lt. Dave Coleman told reporters. He seemed “agitated and uncooperative,” Coleman added.
Leibel was taken into custody and has been held without bail. He is scheduled to undergo a mental competency evaluation after his attorney raised doubts about his mental fitness.
“This is a serious matter,” said defense attorney Alaleh Kamran in a statement issued by publicist Howard Bragman. “Mr. Leibel's defense team request that the public and the media respect his right to a fair hearing in court.”
Ronald Richards, a defense attorney who has known Leibel for several years and is representing him in divorce proceedings, said it was difficult to surmise “what causes people to snap.”
“Him being violent is so uncharacteristic of the person I’ve known for many years,” Richards said. He said Leibel had various “stressors,” adding: “It’s hard to tell which has contributed to any mental health issues.”
The gruesome death and Leibel’s arrest have grabbed headlines in Canada, where his father, Lorne Leibel, is a prominent real estate developer and former Olympic athlete.
Lorne Leibel competed in sailing in the 1976 Olympics before launching a host of real estate developments, Canada’s National Post reported. He’s also an accomplished powerboater and car enthusiast.
Lorne’s two sons, Cody and Blake, have built careers in Los Angeles: Cody as a real estate developer, and Blake as a comic book creator, animation director and screenwriter. Among his credits were director and consultant on the animated series “Spaceballs,” based on the 1987 film by Mel Brooks.
Blake Leibel moved to California in 2004 and received monthly allowances totaling $1.7 million from his parents over about eight years, according to legal documents filed after his mother died in 2011. At the time of his mother’s death, he said in court documents that he had no income despite supporting a wife and son.
Leibel filed for divorce against his wife, Amanda Braun, in July 2015, according to court records. The case is still pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
It’s unclear when Leibel met Kasian, but sheriff’s officials said the couple lived together. Kasian recently gave birth to a baby girl.
“It’s very rare that someone is involved in a homicide case with someone they just had a baby with,” Richards said. “It’s very early to make a conclusion as to what the cause, intent, motive and facts were to this unfortunate tragedy.”
Less than a week before Kasian was found dead, Leibel was arrested shortly after midnight on May 20 on suspicion of sexual assault. He was later released after posting $100,000 bail, according to police records. He has not been charged in that case.
Leibel is scheduled to next appear in court on June 14. Prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.