Iana Kasian's mother knew something was terribly wrong when her daughter didn't respond to her messages. When police finally entered the residence, they encountered a crime scene like no other.
Iana Kasian was tortured, murdered, drained of her blood, and left mutilated on the bed of her Hollywood apartment next to her two-month-old baby.
The 30-year-old Ukrainian had worked as a tax lawyer in her 20s before successfully making a leap into her fledgling career as a model. That’s when she met Blake Leibel — father to her child, and unsuspecting murderer.
According to CBS News, the pairing seemed tailor-made. Leibel was an aspiring producer and came from a wealthy family where money was no issue. Kasian was overjoyed at leaving Kiev, Ukraine and climbing Hollywood’s social ladder alongside her new, impressive boyfriend.
“He, by all accounts, was friendly,” said Scott Johnson, a consultant for 48 Hours and senior writer for The Hollywood Reporter. “And people appreciated him. He was sort of born in the lap of luxury.”
Indeed, Leibel was born into a wealthy Canadian real estate family, and his father was former Olympic sailor Lorne Leibel. After his mother died in 2011, Blake fought for her $12 million estate in court and was awarded around half of it.
He directed a low-budget film called Bald and managed to contribute to the animated “Spaceballs” series — an offshoot of the popular Mel Brooks film. His most successful project, however, was a graphic novel called Syndrome — in which women are brutally killed and the comic book panels eventually reflected real life.
It was shortly after Kasian gave birth to Leibel’s daughter that the gruesome incident took place. The victim’s mother, Olga Kasian, suddenly had a terrible feeling. She hadn’t heard from her daughter, who was living with Leibel in West Hollywood, and called the police to gain entry into their home.
“I had this feeling that something was wrong,” said Olga Kasian.
What authorities discovered was one of the most horrific murder scenes the town had seen in decades — possibly ever.
“In my almost 30 years, I’ve never been involved in a more heinous crime than this,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. William Cotter.
The Leibel Family
“In terms of murders, it’s far and away the most grisly awful story I’ve ever covered,” said Johnson.
Leibel was in the middle of divorcing his first wife, who was about to give birth to their second child, when Kasian died. Leibel also had a mistress, though it seemed like he’d fallen in love with Kasian.
His brother Cody, meanwhile, was a gambler in high-stakes poker games — specifically in a circuit called “Molly’s Game” which eventually became an Aaron Sorkin film of the same name.
In the year before he met Kasian, Leibel was terribly nervous about his brother’s gambling debts to potentially dangerous card players. Johnson said Leibel even feared that some of them would harm his family as retribution.
This seemed largely unfounded. Cody’s primary line of work was developing real estate and running his own record label. Regardless of Blake and Cody’s efforts in entertainment and property, the two brothers came from money — on both sides.
Blake’s maternal grandfather founded a plastics empire while his father became a major real estate developer in Toronto. Even when Blake and Cody’s parents separated — and separated them — money was not a problem.
Cody lived with his father in Toronto’s most affluent area, while Blake moved in with his mother in the second-most. Nonetheless, Blake’s relationship with his father began to crumble, and when his mother died — it seemed like he was on his own.
After winning about $6 million inheritance from her estate, Leibel forged ahead with his Hollywood dream of becoming a writer-director. After Bald and “Spaceballs,” he finished Syndrome, which he was quite keen on adapting into a television show. The comic would later draw extreme parallels to the murder of Iana Kasian.
Before he ever met her, however, Leibel’s newfound low-level notoriety as a young creative in Hollywood was drawing a lot of attractive women his way. He met Amanda Braun in 2006, and eventually made her his wife and mother to his first son.
Leibel left her in 2015, when she was nearing birth to their second child. That’s when he met Iana Kasian, whom he told that his marriage was over. Within a few months, Kasian was pregnant.
Blake Leibel’s Unmanageable Love Life
“It was amazing news. We were so happy,” said Olga Kasian. “All of us were so happy.”
Leibel seemed very happy in the first few days after his daughter Diana was born. According to Johnson, however, there was extreme anxiety and some heavy concerns that Leibel expressed to a friend over text message during this time.
Leibel was afraid of losing everything. He feared that certain Russian mobsters his brother lost money to over poker would seek violent vengeance on him and his family.
“Close friends of both Cody and Blake have told me that Cody…in at least one case was taken for a large amount of money by some of these other more experienced poker players,” said Johnson. “Over $1 million, I heard.”
“Blake was afraid that people associated with the gambling game posed a mortal threat to him and members of his family.”
Though Johnson has read these messages, and heard from Leibel’s friends that he was anxious about potential violence, the real reason for his stress seemed to be the chaotic nature of his personal, romantic life.
He moved out of his house and was in the process of divorcing Braun, but was living in West Hollywood with Kasian while dating a third woman named Constance Buccafurri. It was this unmanageable web of deceit that seemed to cause him the most self-imposed aggravation.
“He had made choices that ensnared him with three different women simultaneously, and that was kind of catching up to him,” said Johnson.
Homicide detectives Rob Martindale and Bill Cotter, who investigated Kasian’s murder, said there was a violent incident involving Leibel less than one week before her death. In mid-May 2016, Leibel’s mistress Buccafurri accused him of sexual assault.
He was arrested, and Kasian bailed him out. Presumably, this caused quite a bit of tension at home.
The Murder Of Iana Kasian
Kasian was still recovering from a C-section when Leibel threatened to leave her if she didn’t have sex with him when he demanded. He also constantly asked her if he could leave her for another woman. Kasian was so beholden to him that she agreed to let her newborn baby live with her mother, in order to focus on her relationship with Leibel.
“He was controlling her like a hawk,” said Olga Kasian. “He wanted her to do everything he wanted.”
While mother and daughter were shopping on May 23, 2016, Iana received several text messages from Leibel. Her whole attitude changed within seconds. “I’m going to him,” Iana told her mother.
It was the last time Olga Kasian ever saw her daughter alive.
The next day, Olga Kasian panicked. She couldn’t reach her daughter, so she called the police. It took several days for authorities to agree that something was wrong. When they tried using a key obtained from the realtor, they found the door was locked from the inside.
When they broke the door down, they found the hallway door leading to the bedrooms locked and barricaded. Police took the door off its hinges, and saw the first actual sign of struggle: blood.
They moved toward the master bedroom, which was also locked. That’s when Leibel yelled that he wasn’t coming out. He yelled that Iana wasn’t home. One of his friends urged Leibel on the phone to surrender. When he appears, he’s wearing only boxer shorts.
Homicide detectives Cotter and Martindale report to the scene, and it’s unlike anything they’d ever seen before.
“Been to a lotta crime scenes over the years,” said Cotter. “But — walking into that one was, was just different…Stepping into the hallway that led to the bedrooms, then things started to appear.”
According to The Toronto Sun, Dr. James Ribe of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office described Kasian’s wounds in harrowing detail.
“[Her] entire scalp was traumatically absent and was not found, was not present with the body. Her skull had been stripped down to the surface of the bone…there was no scalp present except for little bits in the back of the neck. Also portions of the right side of her face were torn away including the right ear and part of the posterior face on the right side, all the way down the jawline.”
He also estimated that Kasian’s face had bruises, abrasions, and a human bite mark on it — and that she “lived for at least eight hours approximately after receiving the scalp injury and the bruise to the collarbone.”
“I have never seen this before. And I doubt hardly any forensic pathologists in this country or abroad have even seen this, outside of, perhaps, wartime…it’s extremely rare.”
Detective Martindale recalled how disturbing Leibel’s reaction was, when confronted with his actions.
“He just held firm that he wasn’t — he wasn’t even aware that she was dead,” said Martindale in his deposition. “And very callous when I told him — I think very striking — well, I pointedly said, ‘She’s dead in that bed.’ And he’s like — looks at us and goes, ‘Well, I guess you’ll find out who did it then.'”
The Trial Of Blake Leibel
“The life of this little angel began with the fact that her father massacred her mother,” Olga Kasian said in court through a Russian interpreter, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham sentenced Leibel to life in prison with the possibility of parole, and after hearing the gruesome details of what occurred, that decision was likely not a difficult one.
“The case is unusual only in its savagery,” said Windham, adding that Leibel exhibited “inconceivable cruelty” in his actions.
Difficult details of the crime scene were relayed during the trial, such as the deep red stains on the white furniture, and clumps of dark hair stuck to a razor. Most disturbing, perhaps, was recounting how officials found Kasian’s right ear in a dumpster outside of the residence.
“He threw away pieces of his fiancee…like she was trash,” said Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman.
An elderly juror shook his head. A woman in the audience said she felt faint, and left the room. Olga Kasian stared at the violent imagery intently, while Leibel stared at the defense table throughout. His brother Cody sat in the audience with nary an expression.
“He continued to mutilate her bit by bit,” said Silverman.
Though there’s frankly no silver lining to this unspeakably violent tragedy, Blake Leibel was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated mayhem, and torture in June 2018. He will remain behind bars for the rest of his life, while his daughter will be loved and taken care of by her grandmother.