Monday 27 March 2017

Horror author accused of murdering girlfriend and 'draining her blood' in 'plot straight from novel'

The charges could bring the death penalty to the screenwriter and graphic novelist

Blake Leibel (left) is accused of murdering Iana Kasian (right)
Blake Leibel (left) is accused of murdering Iana Kasian (right)

A screenwriter and artist - and son of a prominent Canadian real estate tycoon - was charged with torturing and killing his girlfriend before draining her blood in West Hollywood.

Blake Leibel (35) pleaded not guilty to the allegations of murder, mayhem, aggravated mayhem, and torture, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said in a statement. Leibel faces the death penalty if found guilty.

Prosecutors accuse Leibel of killing his girlfriend Iana Kasian, 30, between 23 May and 26 May in their West Hollywood apartment.

It's a case which has gripped the US media, with some describing it as a plot ripped straight from the plot of a pulp thriller.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Ms Kasian’s mother had contacted authorities on 26 May to conduct a welfare check. When officers arrived to the apartment, they found Leibel barricaded in the apartment with Ms Kasian’s body - reportedly mangled.

“Kasian was tortured and mutilated before she was killed and all of her blood was drained from her body,” Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef said.

The Los Angeles Times says that Leibel, who is being held without bail, is will undergo a mental competency evaluation

“This is a serious matter,” defense attorney Alaleh Kamran told the Times 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.”

Before Ms Kasian’s death, Leibel was arrested under suspicion of sexual assault, but posted a $100,000 bail. Prosecutors have not charged him in that case.

An attorney who represented Leibel in past divorce proceedings expressed shock to the Times about his client.

“Him being violent is so uncharacteristic of the person I’ve known for many years,” Ronald Richards, a defense attorney who is representing Leibel in his divorce, said. “It’s hard to tell which [stressors have] contributed to any mental health issues.”

Leibel was the director of an animated version of the 1987 Mel Brooks Star Wars parody, Spaceballs. He also directed the straight-to-DVD film Bald, released in 2008.

Leibel’s father, Lorne Leibel, is prominent real estate developer in Toronto who also competed in the 1976 Olympic sailing team. He stayed an avid racer of both boats and cars, and referred to himself as the “Ferrari Man”, according to the Toronto Star.

Prosecutors have yet to announce whether they will actively seek the death penalty for Leibel. If not, he will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The trial is set for 14 June.

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