A Los Angeles jury on Wednesday convicted a graphic novelist of the 2016 torture murder of his fiancee — a grisly slaying that prosecutors say was patterned after a book he worked on years earlier.
Jurors deliberated less than four hours before convicting Blake Leibel, 37, the scion of a wealthy Canadian family, of first-degree murder, aggravated mayhem and torture in the slaying of Iana Kasian, 30, who had given birth to the couple’s daughter weeks before the slaying.
Before sheriff’s deputies arrested Leibel at the couple’s West Hollywood apartment in May 2016, prosecutors say he barricaded doorways with mattresses and locked himself in a bedroom with Kasian’s lifeless body.
During closing arguments at the murder trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Beth Silverman told jurors that Leibel had used a sharp object — perhaps the green paring knife or bloodied razor found in the couple’s bathroom — as well as his bare hands to cut and rip pieces of her scalp.
Kasian, who died from extreme blood loss, was alive during much of the torture and died “a very slow, excruciating, painful death,” Silverman said, adding that the killing was patterned after “Syndrome,” a graphic novel that Leibel funded and helped develop years earlier.
The book, whose cover shows a baby doll with a partially removed scalp, includes depictions of bloodletting. When Kasian’s body was found, prosecutors say that most of the blood had been drained from her body.
“The defendant basically handed us a blueprint,” Silverman said. “A case of life imitating art.”
As gruesome photographs of Kasian’s severed ear and scalp flashed onto a screen during the trial, an older male juror shook his head. Kasian’s mother whimpered and buried her head in her hands and Leibel’s brother, Cody, a high-end property developer, sat stone-faced.
Silverman rattled off several adjectives — vicious, gruesome, sadistic — but then stopped herself, saying there were no words to describe Leibel’s crimes.
“What happened,” she said, “is beyond anybody’s worst nightmare.”
A juror nodded.
Leibel’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Haydeh Takasugi, began her closing arguments by acknowledging that she had seen sadness and anger in the jurors’ eyes throughout the trial. Still, she said, she hoped the panel could critically examine the case.
If they truly scrutinized the evidence, she said, she believed they would have no option but to acquit Leibel. The attorney added that while her client created “Syndrome,” he didn’t write or illustrate the book. And the cover image of the scalped baby doll, she said, was someone else’s conception.
“We’re reaching for something that is not there,” she said of the prosecution’s link.
Leibel, who faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, is scheduled to be sentenced June 26.
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