A West Hollywood man was convicted Wednesday of murder and other charges for the death of his live-in girlfriend, whose body was drained of all of her blood in a crime that a prosecutor said mirrored the script of a graphic novel he co-wrote.
Jurors deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding Blake Leibel, 37, guilty of first-degree murder, torture and aggravated mayhem for the May 2016 slaying of Iana Kasian, 30, in the condominium they shared.
The panel also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder by torture and murder by mayhem.
Leibel is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole, with sentencing set June 26 before Superior Court Judge Mark Windham at the Airport Branch Courthouse in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office had opted earlier not to seek the death penalty against Leibel.
“This case reads like a movie script,” Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef told jurors in her opening statement earlier this month, comparing the crime to a horror movie involving a “gruesome crime” that involved a “prolonged attack” in which Leibel’s girlfriend was “alive for the better part of the mutilation and mayhem.”
The prosecutor told jurors that Leibel “followed a script” from “Syndrome,” a book he co-wrote, saying it “mimics what happened to the victim” three weeks after she gave birth to their daughter.
The woman’s nude body, which was covered with a Mickey Mouse blanket that had been used earlier in their newborn daughter’s nursery, was discovered on May 26, 2016, in the couple’s blood-spattered master bedroom after Kasian’s worried mother called authorities to report that she had not been able to reach her daughter, Mokayef said.
She showed jurors an illustration of a woman in Leibel’s book and urged them to compare it with the crime scene, saying it’s “almost exactly like what you have” in the case.
Leibel had barricaded himself inside the master bedroom and came out in boxer shorts after his accountant showed up, with sheriff’s deputies discovering “blood everywhere,” Mokayef said.
The woman appeared to have been washed thoroughly and was missing her scalp and the right side of her face, and pieces of flesh were found in the room, the prosecutor said, noting that part of the victim’s scalp that was turned inside out and an ear were subsequently discovered in a trash bin at the bottom of a chute outside the condominium.
The prosecutor said Leibel hadn’t factored in the persistence of his girlfriend’s mother, who initially notified Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies about her daughter’s disappearance one day before her daughter was found dead and then again in a 911 call in which she pleaded, “Help me,” the day her daughter’s body was discovered.
The victim’s mother, Olga Kasian, who had traveled from the Ukraine to help her daughter with her newborn child, was called as the prosecution’s first witness.
Through a Russian interpreter, the victim’s mother said she had been helping to care for the baby, who was staying with her at a Los Angeles apartment, and that she never saw her daughter alive after the two went shopping May 23, 2016, to look for a baby stroller. She said she spoke to her daughter once the following afternoon and then never heard from her again.
“Were you worried about your daughter?” the prosecutor asked.
“Yes,” the woman responded, noting earlier that the two had been in constant telephonic communication with each other.
Leibel was arrested the day his girlfriend’s body was discovered.