Blake Leibel, the son of prominent Toronto developer Lorne Leibel, has been charged with torturing and killing his girlfriend in West Hollywood. The 35-year-old, who was arrested last week on suspicion of murder, made his first appearance in an L.A. courtroom Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to one count each of murder, mayhem, aggravated mayhem and torture.
According to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, Leibel also faces “special circumstance allegations of the murder involving torture and mayhem,” which make him eligible for the death penalty.
On Thursday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported that Leibel was taken into custody after the police forced entry into his apartment through barricades he had built and found the body of his girlfriend, Iana Kasian, lying on the floor. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Kasian was tortured and mutilated before she was killed and all of her blood was drained from her body,” said Tannaz Mokayef, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, according to a statement from the D.A.’s office.
The sheriff’s office previously issued a press release explaining that officers visited the couple’s home after Kasian’s mother reported her daughter missing. Inside, they found the 30-year-old Ukrainian woman “unresponsive” with signs of “sustained blunt force trauma.”
On Sunday a person who told the Star she was Leibel’s neighbour and asked not to be identified out of concerns he might be released on bail, described watching him being escorted away in handcuffs.
“He was barefoot and wearing black shorts and a black T-shirt with some kind of cartoon,” she said. “He looked deranged. His legs were bruised, his face was puffy.”
Alaleh Kamran, who is representing Leibel, raised questions about his mental competence, which led Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Keith Schwartz to order a psychological evaluation, according to media reports.
A local television station, KTLA 5, reported the couple’s child was safe and being cared for by a family friend.
Online profiles describe Leibel as a “world champion gamer,” comic book author and director of projects that included a cartoon version of the movie Spaceballs and Bald, a movie that was released on DVD.
However, court documents related to his mother’s will reveal Leibel’s life in L.A. was financially supported by both his parents.
In 2011 Leibel’s mother, Eleanor, died of brain cancer. More than two years later, he launched an unsuccessful legal challenge to her will, arguing he should be the sole beneficiary. The will had granted his brother, Cody, who lived with their father for a time after the parents separated, a portion of his mother’s sizable estate.
“Blake needed money,” reads the ruling from Ontario Superior Court. “The evidence shows that both Lorne and Eleanor were sending him money to continue to live in California in a home that had also been provided by Eleanor’s largesse.”
Leibel’s father, Lorne, founded GTA-based development company Canada Homes Inc. The self-described “Ferrari Man,” also sailed for Team Canada in the 1976 Olympics and has since raced both boats and vintage cars.
A spokesperson for the L.A. County District Attorney’s office said because of the nature of his charges Blake Leibel is not eligible for bail.
If found guilty he may face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors have not announced whether they’ll seek the death penalty.
None of the allegations against Leibel have been proven in court. His appearance will take place on June 14.