LOS ANGELES — A Canadian real estate tycoon’s son who explored the darkest side of evil in his graphic novel is now accused of carrying out such an act.
Blake Leibel was charged this week with murder in the torture and mutilation of a girlfriend who had just given birth to their child. Deputies discovered the bloodless body of Iana Kasian after breaking through a barricade to get into the couple’s West Hollywood apartment last week, prosecutors said.
The case has grabbed attention in Canada, where his father, Lorne Leibel, a sailor on the country’s 1976 Olympics team, built a fortune constructing homes in the Toronto area and is known for his love of Ferraris and racing powerboats.
The father and his estranged wife, Eleanor Leibel, provided for their two sons when they moved to California years ago, according to papers filed in an Ontario court. Each was given a big house and Blake Leibel lived off an allowance of about $18,000 a month over a seven year period until inheriting the majority of his mother’s estate.
Blake Leibel and his older brother, Cody, were drawn to California because of the weather, said attorney Ronald Richards, who said he was hired to look after them and keep them out of trouble.
Each pursued different creative paths.
Cody Leibel founded C-Note Records, a now defunct label, and rubbed elbows with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
He was part of an unlicensed high-stakes poker game that included several hot-shots that got snared in a lawsuit to reclaim money for investors duped in a Ponzi scheme by another gambler.
Blake Leibel, 35, worked in a variety of creative roles, including as a director and creative consultant in 2008 on the animated series based on Mel Brooks 1987 film “Spaceballs,” according to his profile on IMDb. He wrote and directed his own comedy, “Bald,” that same year about a balding college student whose friends create an erotic website to raise money for a hair transplant.
He’s credited as the creator and executive editor of the graphic novel “Syndrome,” published in 2010. The book’s plot follows a mad doctor’s quest to test his theory that he can isolate the root of evil in the brain and fix it, trying his experiment on a serial killer.
The graphic novel opens outside a prison where the killer is about to be executed for 38 murders. It then flashes back to scenes of him hanging a couple by their ankles and slitting the man’s throat.
The charges against Blake Leibel allege he used a knife to torture, maim and murder Kasian sometime between May 23 and May 26. The elements of torture include the intent to cause cruel and extreme pain and suffering for revenge, extortion or a sadistic purpose. By the time she was found, all the blood had drained from her body, prosecutors said.
Leibel, who pleaded not guilty Tuesday to all counts, faces a mental competency hearing June 14. If convicted of first-degree murder, he could face the death penalty, though prosecutors haven’t decided if they’ll seek it.
Defence lawyers have been mum about the case, asking in a statement that he be given a chance for fair hearing.
Richards said the allegations are hard to grasp. Blake Leibel was in the process of settling an amicable divorce with his wife while starting a new relationship with Kasian. There were no abuse allegations in the divorce, lawyers for both parties said.
The divorce was filed in July and his wife, Amanda Braun, gave birth to their son the next month.
Blake Leibel moved out of a Beverly Hills house his mother had bought him so Braun could raise the boy there, Richards said. He moved into an apartment with Kasian, who gave birth to his daughter in early May.
Deputies went to the couple’s apartment after Kasian’s mother reported her missing. It appeared she had been badly beaten, authorities said. Blake Leibel was arrested at the scene.
“I thought he was very happy with this change in his life, which can be complicated with two women and two children,” Richards said. “It seemed like he was going in the right direction.”
A lawyer for Braun said she’s upset and in shock.
“There was nothing to indicate he had a violent past or violent tendencies. Nothing,” attorney Pedram Mansouri said.
Richards said the Leibel family was “temporarily fractured” after Blake Leibel contested his mother’s will in 2013, which left him two of her properties after she died in 2011, including his home in California. He had to split other property with his brother.
Blake Leibel claimed unsuccessfully that he was to be the sole heir because his mother raised him while his father raised his brother.
A message left at Lorne Leibel’s office was not immediately returned.
By Brian Melley. Associated Press writer Rob Gillies contributed to this report from Toronto.